TUESDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Men who don't sleep enough may be increasing their risk for cardiovascular disease, new research suggests.

The notion is based on the finding that shorter duration of sleep was associated with a thickening of the men's neck's carotid artery wall. Such "intima-media thickness" (IMT) is considered to be a significant marker for heart disease.

What's more, the link between sleep and IMT seems to be gender-based, applying solely to men.

The study team, led by Megan R. Sands of Brown University in Providence, R.I., is slated to present its findings Tuesday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Chicago.

Sands and her colleagues developed the new risk association based on an ultrasound analysis involving more than 600 middle-aged black and white patients drawn from across the country. Participants were between the ages of 37 and 52. Almost 60 percent were women.

Sleep monitoring revealed that men slept less on a daily basis than women: 5.7 hours vs. 6.3 hours, respectively.

On average, the male patients also had thicker carotid artery walls: 0.74 mm for men vs. 0.68 mm for women.

Putting the data together, the authors determined that an extra hour of sleep translated into .021 mm less IMT, or neck artery wall thickening, among men. Women, by contrast, only experienced .002 mm less IMT as a result of an extra hour of sleep.

This study did not prove a cause-and-effect. And it was presented at a medical meeting. The data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

For more risk factors on high blood pressure and heart disease, visit the American Heart Association.