How Sleep Affects Your Heart

September 27, 2021
How Sleep Affects Your Heart

This is why you may be putting your heart at risk when you don't get enough sleep.

Endless nights of poor sleep can take a toll on your health, including putting you at a higher risk for heart disease. Research has shown that people who don't get enough sleep increase their cardiovascular disease risk regardless of their age, weight, exercise habits or whether or not they smoke.

Although the exact cause is not clear, people who tend to get less than 6 hours of sleep nightly are more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. Without enough deep periods of rest, certain chemicals are activated that keep the body from lowering heart rate and blood pressure for extended periods of time, which may contribute to these health issues.

Approximately 50% of all adults report occasional insomnia and 20% say they have chronic sleep troubles. If you're among those who don't get enough sleep, here are a few strategies that may help you get a better night's sleep:

  • Keep a diary. Record when you go to bed, how many times you wake up and how you feel in the morning. Also note what you ate close to bedtime and your exercise habits. Do this for at least 2 weeks to help you spot patterns that may be affecting your sleep.
  • Change your ways. Once you've identified factors that are affecting your sleep, change the habits that lead to restless nights. Many people find they cannot drink caffeine after 2 pm or exercise after 5 pm if they have hopes of sleeping well.
  • Unwind at day's end. Give your body time to move from a state of activity to a relaxed state. Pick up your favorite magazine or dive into a book to relax the mind. Try to avoid screen time too close to bedtime.
  • Establish a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time as much as possible, even on weekends. A regular routine helps keep your body's clock steady.

If you don't feel well rested in the morning despite getting an adequate amount of sleep, it may be a sign that you have sleep apnea, especially if you snore. This can be a cardiac risk factor and should be evaluated by a physician. 

If sleep apnea or another sleep disorder is putting your heart at risk, call the Guthrie cardiac team. We have the most experienced heart team in the area and with 14 locations in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions of New York and the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, there’s probably a Guthrie office near you. Many Guthrie cardiologists also offer telemedicine visits.

To schedule an appointment, call 866-GUTHRIE (866-488-4743) or click here.

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Date Last Reviewed: July 19, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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