February is American Heart Month, a federally designated event since 1964. Throughout the month, the American Heart Association concentrates on reminding us to focus on the health of our hearts. Even if your heart is healthy, you probably know someone affected by cardiovascular disease – it leads to the deaths of approximately 2,300 Americans every day. This number does not have to be so large. Preventing heart disease comes down to making heart-healthy choices with respect to diet and lifestyle. The right lifestyle decisions can lower your risk for developing heart disease by as much as 80%.
Americans Don’t Get Enough Sleep
Overworked Americans lead busy lives, and many find it hard to get enough sleep. In fact, the duration of sleep has decreased by 1.5 – 2 hours per night per person over the last 50 years. Not enough sleep is defined as less than six hours per night. While shortened sleep itself won’t give you a heart attack, it will increase the risk factors for heart disease. So, it’s pretty sound advice that sleeping less than six hours a night is not good for you.
How Lack of Sleep Can Affect Your Heart
Sleep deprivation puts people of all ages at a greater risk for coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease. You may believe that your heart is in good shape because your weight is under control, you’re a non-smoker and you exercise regularly. But, while all of these factors help lower your chances of developing heart disease, lack of sufficient sleep is detrimental to heart health, and if you don’t get enough sleep you need to do something about it. Here’s some information on how sleep affects your heart.
- A healthy heart needs sleep. During a good night’s sleep, both your heart rate and blood pressure go down giving your hard-working heart a rest. Shortened sleep is not long enough for this essential lowering to take place and may eventually lead to higher daytime blood pressure.
- People with sleep deprivation have a heart rate that stays elevated. It’s as if the sleeper has a high stress level.
- Shortened sleep disrupts the metabolism of glucose and can lead to increased insulin resistance, a risk factor for both heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Not enough sleep can produce an increase in C-reactive protein (CRP) which is released when inflammation and/or stress are present.
- Studies have found a link between shortened sleep and increased calcium deposits in coronary arteries.
Young People Are at Risk Too
Research shows that too little sleep early in life can lead to a snowballing of heart-related problems in adulthood. For instance, one study found that adolescents with a history of not sleeping well tended to test high on the body mass index, and to have elevated cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Sufferers from sleep apnea, a condition where sufferers frequently wake up during the night, are known to have compromised heart health. Much research has been done to confirm the relationship between sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease. One study found that over a period of eight years, men suffering from severe sleep apnea had a 58% higher chance of developing congestive heart failure than those without this breathing disorder.
Yes, here at the Valley Sleep Center we want you to wake up every morning after a healthy, restful night of sufficient sleep. We are dedicated to educating people about the positive benefits of sleep and helping them to improve its length and quality. If you have a problem with not getting enough sleep talk to us – we can help make every morning a good one.