If you’re someone who finds themselves tossing and turning, I’m sure you already know about the tiredness and maybe grumpiness that can follow. But the consequences of lack of sleep go a lot deeper than that. Research shows that an on-going sleep deficiency can compromise your heart health. So, with that being said we want to bring your attention to Heart Health Week and create awareness around the connections between sleep and your heart health.
Heart Week is an opportunity for health professionals and the Australian public to start a conversation about heart health and the steps needed to reduce the risk of heart disease (Heart Foundation Australia, 2019). There are many benefits to getting quality sleep, but often the heart gets overlooked, when it’s one of the most important aspects to our health! Living the busy lives we live, many people see sleep as a “waste of time” but when sleep and heart health are so closely connected this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Research shows that people who aren’t getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night are at higher risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and heart attacks. Regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits, getting enough good quality sleep is important if you want to lower your risk of these conditions. A study published by European Heart Journal (2017) showed that people who experience poor sleep have a 71% higher risk of ischemic heart disease and a 45% higher risk of stroke. There is a huge link between people who have sleep problems such sleep apnea, insomnia, and sleep deprivation and people with heart disease.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where the individuals’ breathing is interrupted during sleep. The sleeper will then wake gasping for air, preventing restful sleep, which is closely related to high blood pressure, arrhythmia, stroke and heart failure. These pauses are particularly dangerous because the heart can sense a reduction in oxygen in the blood, the nervous system will then increase the blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels. Working in overdrive to make up for the lack of oxygen, which is then repeated over and over again throughout the night, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for ischemic heart disease, including heart attack and congestive heart failure. People who suffer with sleep apnea are a prime example of the relationship between sleep and the heart, as they often have comprised heart health.
One study [Impact of heart failure on quality of sleep] shows that nearly half the people with heart failure have some form of sleep-disordered breathing like sleep apnea. A similar study shows [Association of sleep disordered breathing and the occurrence of stroke] those with moderate or severe sleep apnea were 3 to 4 times more likely to have a stroke.
Similarly, insomnia is a sleep disorder with links to heart failure. With almost 75 percent of people with heart failure report reoccurring insomnia. Sleep deprivation and insomnia go hand in hand – sleep deprivation is a common experience for insomniacs. It is common for people who are sleep deprived to have a higher heart rate.
Another way sleep deprivation can cause health concerns is it can trigger your metabolism to slow, leading to weight gain, which is associated with diabetes, another leading risk factor for heart disease. When you’re sleep deprived you can be less likely to exercise, which is also important to your heart health (The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 2019).
When our bodies are sleep deprived, it can send the sympathetic nervous system into overdrive. This causes the release of a larger amount of the hormone adrenaline. In simple terms, making the heart work harder than it needs to! Being sleep deprived puts you at a greater risk for developing hyperlipidemia, or high cholesterol, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.
As you can see in the supporting evidence, sleep is directly related to the health of your heart. That is why we want to encourage everyone to take their sleep seriously, to help reduce the chances of these heart issues. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and your body will be well rested and your heart will thank you later! If you are experiencing any of the issues discussed, we highly suggest you talk to your doctor, as well as improve your sleep environment, which could be playing a huge role in your lack of quality sleep.
Quality sleep + enough sleep = healthy heart
A healthy heart = a healthy you!