Alaska Sleep Education Center

The Link Between Sleep And Cardiovascular Health

Posted by Jane Sandwood on Nov 22, 2020 6:47:00 AM

Woman feeling a heart flutter.

Cardiovascular diseases affect nearly half of all US adults, as found in the American Heart Association’s Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics - 2019 Update. The high percentage reflects changes in the definition of high blood pressure. In 2017, the AHA and American College of Cardiology deemed a high blood pressure reading to be 130/80, compared to the past definition of 140/90.

In order to battle cardiovascular disease, these organizations recommend an array of approaches - including quitting smoking, taking part in regular exercise, and getting good sleep. So how can your sleep quantity and quality affect your risk of cardiovascular disease?

Lifestyle Is The Number One Risk Factor For Cardiovascular Issues

High blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, and conditions and diseases such as diabetes and congenital heart disease all up the risk for cardiovascular disease. There is also a strong link between lifestyle and cardiovascular disease. Factors such as a poor diet (one that comprises processed foods and high amounts of refined sugar), alcohol consumption, smoking, and chronic stress are all considered risk factors. So, too, is not getting enough sleep. 

Lack Of Sleep And Inflammation

recent report by scientists at the Massachusetts General Hospital found that insufficient sleep increases the production of inflammatory white blood cells (which contribute to atherosclerosis - the buildup of plaque on one’s artery walls that can restrict blood flow and cause blood clots).

“We have discovered that sleep helps to regulate the production in the bone marrow of inflammatory cells and the health of blood vessels and that, conversely, sleep disruption breaks down control of inflammatory cell production, leading to more inflammation and more heart disease,” said lead researcher, F Swirski. Adults should aim to obtain seven to nine hours of sleep a night in order to reduce the chances of inflammation.

Disrupted Sleep And Inflammation

Sleep quantity is just one piece of the puzzle since the quality of your sleep is just as important. Good sleep quality involves a variety of factors - including sleeping within the first half-hour of getting into bed, and awakening no more than once during the night. A recent study published in the journal PLOS showed that sleep disruption increases the risk of atherosclerosis, since it also increases inflammation and causes increased plaque buildup in the arteries.

Teens Need To Take Sleep Seriously

It isn’t only adults who need to sleep well to promote good cardiovascular health. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal revealed that teens who sleep poorly may increase their chances of cardiovascular disease later in life.

In the study, the scientists found a link between sleep disturbance and factors such as high cholesterol levels, increased BMI, and hypertension. The findings are important because sleep disturbance is highly prevalent in adolescence, and this factor could contribute to ill health later in life.

There is a strong link between lifestyle factors and cardiovascular disease. To enjoy good health, adopting a sound diet, avoidance of smoking and high intakes of alcohol, and taking regular exercise, are all key. So, too, is having good sleep quantity and quality.

Good sleep can help battle inflammation and keep arteries free of harmful plaque. Sleep should be a priority for people of all ages, with studies indicating that teens’ sleep habits affect their health in adulthood.

What can be done about sleep apnea?

Man sleeping with CPAP.Treatments like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy have been extremely successful in treating sleep apnea and many of its related symptoms and comorbidities. Treating underlying conditions of heart disease, such as sleep apnea, can greatly reduce the chances of developing more serious health problems.

When patients that were both at risk for heart disease and had sleep apnea were treated with CPAP machines, the patient's nighttime and daytime blood pressure was significantly reduced.

To fully assess the risk of sleep apnea and heart disease, a sleep study should be performed by a sleep specialist to both diagnose the disorder and rule out any other sleep disorders or identify any sleep-related comorbidities.

Most insurance plans cover sleep studies as part of their policies. While sleep studies can be somewhat costly, they pale in comparison to the medical costs of treating heart disease.

If you believe you may have sleep apnea and are concerned about the health risks associated with the disorder, discuss your symptoms with your primary physician and ask if a sleep study is right for you. And if you live in Alaska be sure to ask them about having your study performed at The Alaska Sleep Clinic, or contact us for a free 10-minute phone consultation by clicking the link below.

Finally - Sleep Consultation

Topics: heart disease, OSA, sleep health

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