Too much sleep could be linked to heart problems and premature death, research has revealed.

A study found people who slept longer than eight hours had a higher risk of dying or developing diseases of the heart or blood vessels in the brain compared to those who slept for between six and eight hours.

“Sleep is essential to human health, and people spend about a third of their hours sleeping,” the team of international researchers wrote.

“It is increasingly regarded as an important lifestyle behaviour that can affect cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death.”

Compared to people who slept six to eight hours, those who slept a total of eight to nine hours a day had a 5 per cent increased risk.

Those sleeping between nine and 10 hours a day had an increased risk of 17 per cent – and those sleeping more than 10 hours a day carried a 41 per cent increased risk of cardiovascular disease or death.

The researchers also found a 9 per cent increased risk for people who slept a total of six or fewer hours.

Lead researcher Chuangshi Wang said: “Our study shows that the optimal duration of estimated sleep is six to eight hours per day for adults.”

Co- researcher Professor Salim Yusuf added: “The general public should ensure that they get about six to eight hours of sleep a day.

“On the other hand, if you sleep too much regularly, say more than nine hours a day, then you may want to visit a doctor to check your overall health.”