How Sleep Affects Your Heart

February is Heart Health Month, so it’s time to learn about how getting quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your heart. 

Sleep and Your Heart

The Basics

Each night, an adult should be getting an average of seven to nine hours of sleep. This amount increases as age decreases. Some people think that they are fine if they only get a few hours of sleep each night, but the research shows this is not the case. Throughout life, one may experience changes such as pregnancy or sleep deprivation that makes it more difficult to get a good night’s rest. Yet, the body still needs the same amount of sleep, even if it seems to be fighting it. 

The Risks to the Heart

Getting less than the recommended amount of sleep has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. Research1 has found that there is a 48% increased risk of heart disease to those who don’t get a sufficient amount of sleep on a continual basis. This has been shown through the observed cases of heart disease in patients with sleep disorders. Too little sleep on a consistent basis can cause higher inflammation in people, a significant indicator of heart disease. 

Sleep Disorders and the Heart

Additionally, it’s important to have a regular sleep schedule while reaching the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night. An irregular sleep schedule comes with increased risks of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. This is because:

  • High Blood Pressure – Sleep disturbances increase blood pressure for a long amount of time. While you sleep, your blood pressure decreases. 
  • Obesity – Many people with sleep disorders also have an increased likelihood of weight gain and overall obesity. 
  • Diabetes – Studies have shown that a proper amount of sleep can help with type 2 diabetes.

Having a sleep disorder can be a vicious cycle when it comes to heart health in that if you have heart disease, you are also more likely to have a sleep disorder. If you have a sleep disorder, you are also more likely to develop heart disease. 

Insomnia

Nearly 75% of those with insomnia also have heart failure2. The stress of not being able to sleep can create increased stressors on the body and heart. 

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder. It occurs when the upper airway temporarily collapses while sleeping, causing cessation of breathing. It’s estimated that, if left untreated, the risk of dying from heart failure is increased by five times. 

How to Get Better Sleep

Sleep Hygiene

Training the body for sleep is important for everyone. Sleep hygiene involves the sleep boosting activities that you do during the day, to set yourself up for a good night’s rest. This looks like going to bed at the same time each night, establishing a bedtime routine, cutting out caffeine in the afternoon and no electronics before bed. 

Establish the bedroom to be a place of relaxation. Keep the room darkened and tranquil. It’s recommended to not have a TV in the room and in its place have a noise machine or a fan for background noise. 

Sleep Experts

If you suspect you may have a sleep disorder, the best thing you can do for your heart and overall health is to seek a diagnosis. It’s typically done through a simple overnight sleep study that monitors your sleep through electrodes that are placed on the head and chest. Sleep specialists will then look over the results and make a recommendation to your Primary Care Physician. 

Sleep is a vital part of your overall health but is especially important when it comes to keeping your heart healthy. If you have questions about how your sleep could be improved or if you’re wanting to know if your sleep disorder is affecting your heart health, reach out today! 

  1. Nagai, M., Hoshide, S., & Kario, K. (2010). Sleep duration as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease- a review of the recent literature. Current cardiology reviews, 6(1), 54–61. doi:10.2174/157340310790231635
  2. Hayes D, Anstead MI, Ho J, Phillips BA. Insomnia and chronic heart failure. Heart Fail Rev. 2009;14(3):171-82. doi:10.1007/s10741-008-9102-1

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