Iowa Sleep Blog

Sleep and Heart Health

Monday, February 02, 2015

Many people don’t realize the side effects of poor sleep and that sleep plays a big part in the health of your heart. Recent studies have shown that getting less than six hours of sleep each night increases your chance of developing risk factors for heart disease, which is no joking matter.

In the United States, heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women, but women account for more than half of all heart disease deaths. In fact, 267,000 American women die each year from cardiovascular disease; six times more than the number of women who die from breast cancer. African Americans have a higher risk of having high blood pressure and developing heart conditions than any other racial or ethnic group.

Sleep is an important tenant of good heart health. Below are a three connections between sleep and your heart health:

  • If you’re sleeping less than six hours a night, your body is failing to fully recharge. During these stages of sleep, your body is trying to "clean house" and rid your brain of the effect of being away all day. Without this "house cleaning", your body is has a hard time keeping you mentally alert, short term memory starts to fail, and some hormones don't aren't as effective.
  • While you catch some z’s, your body regulates your hormones, including cortisol, the one that triggers stress and strains your heart. If your body can’t control its cortisol levels, you may wake up just as stressed as when you fell asleep.
  • Sleep apneas affect your breathing, which directly affects your blood pressure and how much oxygen is being sent to the heart.If you have a sleep apnea today, your chance of developing hypertension in the future significantly increases.

February is American Heart Month. Are you doing enough to keep your heart healthy? There are many ways to help keep your heart healthy besides getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating a balanced diet. Be proactive about getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly and develop healthy ways to reduce stress. To learn more about what you can do to keep your heart healthy, check out this two part webinar from Dr. Grant.