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Sleep & Heart Disease - Dangerous Bedfellows

Updated: Nov 6, 2019


Getting a good night's rest is one of the best ways to maintain heart health.

A Rarely Mentioned Yet Controllable Risk Factor

One of the least mentioned factors that can contribute to heart disease is sleep. There are several risk factors that people can’t control such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, and family history. Of the risk factors that people can control, such as unhealthy weights and diets, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking cigarettes, un-managed stress, sleep tends to be at the end of the list. However, studies continue to show that a major lifestyle change one can make to cut down on the risk for heart disease is getting a consistently good night’s sleep.

Lack of sleep is a major risk factor not just for heart disease but for the health conditions that can increase one's risk for it. The CDC has recommended that most adults get at least 7 hours of restful sleep each night. This factor can help to lower blood pressure, to improve the ability to control blood sugar levels, and to help maintain a healthy weight.

An Interesting Twist

There are a number of sleep disorders that all involve the interruption of sleep. Studies have shown that these have a connection to things such as hypertension and coronary heart disease. In an interesting twist, the cause and effect that sleep has with heart disease goes the other way as well. Sleep Help.Org states:

"...certain heart conditions and heart disease symptoms actually make it hard for people to fall or stay asleep. According to an article published by Saint Francis Healthcare in Wilmington, Delaware, heart failure, angina, chest pain, heart palpitations, and trouble breathing all make it hard to get a good night’s sleep. This is why it’s important to get these underlying conditions diagnosed and treated as soon as possible so that you don’t end up with a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and heart disease." (Source)

Steps To Healthier Sleep Since the CDC recommends the average adult get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, it's important that one works to develop good sleeping habits. This reduces one's risk for heart disease, as well as helping to lower blood pressure, to improve stress, to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and to help maintain a healthy weight.. The CDC list the following tips to help achieve sleep health:


  • Keeping a regular sleep schedule by getting up and going to bed at the same time every day

  • Getting an adequate amount of natural light by going for a walk

  • Getting enough exercise, while not exercising a few hours before bed

  • Avoiding artificial light a few hours before bed and using a blue light filter on computers and smartphones

  • Not eating or drinking a few hours before bed

  • Maintaining a cool, dark, and quiet sleep environment


To learn more about the relationship between sleep and good cardiac health, visit our friends at SleepHelp.Org at https://www.sleephelp.org/heart-disease-and-sleep for more information on sleep and sleep disorders as well as some resources for help like the links below:

Information:The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Pamphlet on Heart Disease: Published by the CDC, this brochure collects all of the basic facts about heart disease for a quick and easy reference you can print out. (https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/docs/ConsumerEd_HeartDisease.pdf)

WebMD’s Reference Page on the Link Between Heart Failure and Sleep: Like the other articles linked here, WebMD’s reference page breaks down in detail the link between heart failure and sleep issues. It also addresses common heart failure myths, and gives tips on how to sleep well when you have conditions that may lead to heart issues. (https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-failure/heart-failure-sleep-problems#1)

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