It’s no big secret that getting enough quality sleep can do wonders for just about every aspect of your health and well-being. It can help keep stress, mood problems, and anxiety at bay, as well as boost your immune system, vitality, and energy levels. But, did you know that conditions like sleep apnea and insomnia can do insurmountable damage to your cardiovascular health?
It’s true; extreme lack of sleep can increase significantly your risks for health failure, Atrial Fibrillation, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications. Considering that an American has a heart attack or stroke every 45 seconds, according to Digital Authority Partners, it’s high time we take a second look. What’s even more interesting is that sleeping too much or too little can be linked to upped risk of heart disease, according to a study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology in October 2017.
With that being said, there’s more to the connection between heart health and sleep than we earlier thought. So, before you take sleep for granted, remember that isn’t a luxury, but something that’s crucial for your cardiovascular well-being. Which begs the question: how does sleep impact on heart health? Keep on reading to get the lowdown.
First Things First: What’s the Recommended Amount of Sleep?
An adult is recommended to get at least 7 hours of good quality zzz’s. Unfortunately, recent stats show that Americans are now sleeping 1.5-2 hours shorter than half a decade ago. That means an adult American sleeps an average of 6.8 hours per night. In fact, 1 in every 3 adults in the US doesn’t get the recommended dose of good night’s rest. While this might be okay once in a while, repeated lack of enough sleep can take a major toll on your heart health.
What’s The Link between Sleep and Cardiovascular Health?
What Scientific Research Says
In a bid to unravel the relationship between sleep and cardiovascular conditions like heart failure, researchers and scholars have carried out extensive studies. In 2011, for example, European Heart Journal reviewed 15 comprehensive cardiovascular studies spanning over 25 years and involving more than 475,000 participants. From this review, two discoveries stood out:
1) Short sleepers (those getting less than 6 hours of sleep) had a 48 percent and 15 percent increased risk of contracting or dying from heart disease and stroke respectively.
2) Long sleepers (individuals who spend 9+ hours sleeping) were not spared too. They had a 38 percent and 65 percent increased risk of developing or dying from heart disease and stroke respectively.
In another study, almost 240,000 healthy senior adults aged between 51 and 72 were studied for a period of 14 years. The researchers kept a tab on their BMIs, lifestyles, date rates, TV use, and sleep duration. Of the 44,000 participants who died in the 14-year period, most of them were folks who slept too little or too much. What’s more, TV use and exercise didn’t seem to affect the relationship between sleep and death from heart disease. However, the risk of death from cardiovascular disease was higher among obese or overweight individuals.
It’s a Two-Way Street
According to cardiologists and sleep disorder experts, the relationship between lack (or too much) sleep and heart disease is not a one-way street. If you have a heart condition, the chances are that you’ll struggle with an array of other health problems, including sleep issues. On the flipside, having sleep problems can make your heart condition worse or increase the risk factors for heart failure.
Lack of Sleep Leads to Myriads of Health Issues That Can Affect your Ticker
Prolonged lack of sleep, or not getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night, is highly likely to cause a plethora of health problems, including asthma, heart attack, and clinical depression. What’s more is that a number of these health complications can increase the risk factors for heart failure, stroke or heart disease. Here are a few examples of health conditions caused by lack of sleep that can impact adversely on your heart health:
1) Obesity: Lack of sleep may affect brain centers that regulate hunger pangs, causing you to eat more while doing less. As such, not getting enough sleep can cause you to pack on weight in the wrong places, and put your heart health at risk.
2) Hypertension: Your blood pressure is supposed to go down when you sleep. Therefore, when you don’t get enough sleep, your blood pressure stays up for a longer period. According to Simon Stertzer, M.D., hypertension (high blood pressure) is yet another leading risk factor for stroke, heart disease, and heart failure. In fact, 1 in every 3 American adults has hypertension (is that a coincidence?)
3) Type 2 Diabetes: This is a condition that’s destructive to your heart’s vessels because it causes blood sugar build-up. A battery of recent studies has shown that lack of sleep can worsen Type 2 Diabetes.
What Sleep Problems Can Harm Your Heart Health?
There are several different sleep conditions that can ruin your heart health if not rectified early. These sleep conditions include:
1) Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea is one of the leading sleep-related conditions that can impact negatively on your heart health. It’s a condition characterized by intermittent interruptions of sleep due to the obstruction of airways during sleep. The most common type of sleep apnea is OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) which is usually associated with weight gain as well as the use of alcohol and sedatives. Nearly 75% of sleep apnea cases go undiagnosed. The good news is that you can use a nifty tech device like Fitbit Charge 3 to keep track of sleep apnea.
2) Insomnia: 50% of adults experience short-term insomnia at least once in their lives. Long-term insomnia, on the other hand, affects one in ten adults. So, what’s insomnia? It’s a sleep condition that encompasses trouble falling or staying asleep. Several studies have found a relationship between prolonged insomnia and increased risk for heart failure, hypertension, and heart disease.
Other sleep conditions that can affect your heart health include narcolepsy, chronic snoring, restless legs syndrome, and leg cramps.