Sleep Loss and Heart Disease: Understanding the Link

Every year in the United States, about 700,000 people die from heart disease, the leading cause of death for both women and men. In fact, cardiovascular diseases affect about half of all American adults, increasing their risks of death and disability.

Those numbers are alarming, but what’s also surprising is that many of the factors that contribute to heart disease can be managed either with medication or, often, with lifestyle changes. Sleep is one of those risk factors that you just might be able to improve.

As leading cardiology specialists with offices in Allen, Frisco, and Plano, Texas, Rishin Shah, MD, and Kiran Kumar Mangalpally, MD, help patients at Prime Heart and Vascular reduce their risks of heart disease with advanced medical care and customized lifestyle guidance. In this post, they focus on the important role of sleep in maintaining a healthy heart.

Sleep and heart health

Everybody understands the importance of getting enough sleep to feel rested and productive on the following day. Yet data show about a third of Americans don’t get the seven to eight hours of nightly sleep they need to stay healthy.

Poor or inadequate sleep affects your heart health both directly and indirectly. One direct effect involves your blood pressure. When you sleep, your blood pressure naturally decreases. If you aren’t getting enough sleep or your sleep is interrupted or light, your blood pressure stays higher longer, increasing your risks of heart damage and other blood pressure-related problems.

Lack of sleep also increases inflammation, a common factor in many types of heart disease and heart damage. Plus, when you don;t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to suffer from chronic stress, another contributor to heart disease.

Indirectly, lack of sleep can lead to unhealthy eating and low energy, which can, in turn, lead to weight gain and a more sedentary lifestyle. Both of these factors play major roles in heart disease and factors that contribute to disease, like weight gain, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Six tips to improve your sleep

Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to improve your sleep. These tips can help.

1. Reserve your bedroom for sleep

It might be tempting to use your bedroom for a home office or even a place to play video games or watch TV. But doing so can send “mixed signals” to your brain. By reserving your bedroom for sleep only, you “prime” your brain for rest as soon as you enter the room.

2. Set — and maintain — a sleep schedule

Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day — yes, even on weekends — is one of the best ways to improve your sleep. Once you set a schedule, your body and brain will quickly get into a routine that helps you fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply.

3. Develop a bedtime routine

Set aside at least a half hour before sleep to allow your mind to wind down and de-stress. Other routines, like light stretching, reading a book, or listening to music, can help your body and mind prepare for a good night’s rest.

4. Optimize lighting and temperature

Keep your bedroom lights dim, and make sure any bedside lights are angled so light doesn’t shine directly in your face. Cooler temperatures can also help you sleep better, especially if you add a soft blanket or quilt for extra warmth and comfort.

5. Invest in a good bed

Old, worn mattresses no longer provide adequate support, and the aches and pains they cause can make it really hard to get a good night’s sleep. Invest in a new bed with adequate support for your needs, and while you’re at it, replace those old pillows, too.

6. Avoid exercise, big meals, and caffeine before bed

Regular exercise is important for heart health, but if you exercise in the evening, the chemical changes associated with exercise can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Caffeine, alcohol, and large meals have the same effect.

For more ways to improve your sleep, check out this list of tips from the Sleep Foundation.

Learn more ways to improve your heart health

There’s a reason why you feel so rested after a good night’s sleep: Sleep is good for your health, and making an effort to improve your sleep can yield significant benefits for your heart, too.

If you have heart disease or if you’re looking for ways to prevent disease, we can help.

learn more by calling 972-295-7017, or booking an appointment online with the team at Prime Heart and Vascular today.

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