Men's Health, Women's Health, Your Health Ben Brown | 7 years ago

Is Sleep the Key to Better Heart Health?

Maintaining a healthy heart is more than just eating right and exercising. Did you know that too little – or too much – sleep affects your heart, too?

Studies show that not getting enough sleep or getting poor-quality sleep on a regular basis increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and other medical conditions, like stroke, obesity and diabetes.

Too Little Sleep

More than 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic sleep problems and 60 million additional adults are plagued by insomnia. Add another 18 million Americans who have sleep apnea and you’ll see that sleep deprivation is a major issue in the US. Too little sleep is defined as less than six hours of sleep each night. “Sleep disorders have many negative effects on the body, and a significant impact on heart health,” said Shelby McNinch, BS, MS, RN, with the cardiac rehab team at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute.

Too Much Sleep

Sleeping too little is bad for overall health, but sleeping too much may also be dangerous. It’s also associated with a higher risk of heart disease and obesity, diabetes and depression. Too much sleep is often defined as nine or more hours of sleep each night.

Sleep and the Heart

“Sleep is thought to give your heart its much-needed rest,” said McNinch. “It keeps your vascular system in shape and gives your whole body time to make repairs from damage caused by things like stress, which also contributes to cardiovascular disease.” Sleep apnea is a serious condition that affects both your sleep and health. While you are sleeping your throat becomes blocked. This causes you to stop breathing for short periods of time. In order for you to breathe, your body will wake up briefly. This cycle happens repeatedly throughout the night and can cause problems such as feeling tired during the day, and having issues with memory and concentration. Even more seriously, sleep apnea can cause other problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Snoring is an indicator that you might have sleep apnea. It is important to speak with your physician if you snore.

Getting Good Sleep

While sleep needs vary by person, most adults should strive to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Here are some tips for getting a good night’s sleep: • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, especially late in the day. • Don’t exercise late in the day to avoid boosting your energy at night. • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – even on the weekend! • Don’t go to bed overstuffed or hungry. • Create a bedtime ritual to tell your body it’s time to wind down. • Create an ideal sleeping environment that’s cool, dark and quiet. • If you have sleep apnea, work with your doctor for sleep solutions.   We encourage heart health and education. To receive tips like these, visit