How Lack of Sleep Can Hurt Your Heart
It’s 2 a.m., and you’re sweaty and edgy, your legs like a pretzel between the sheets. You know you have to wake up in five hours, so you start breathing deeply in the stale air that, even in its stillness, seems to be your only friend when you’re struggling to sleep while awake.
Having a restless night of bad sleep is part of life once in a while. But consistently missing those crucial 7 hours of sleep increases your risk for a variety of mental and physical problems or symptoms, including those that can affect your heart health.
However, all of this is not necessarily old news. It wasn’t until the summer of 2022 that the American Heart Association added sleep duration to its list of the 8 essential things in life people should do to improve their cardiovascular health – the umbrella term for functioning. your heart and blood vessels.
The benefit of sleep, however, is that there are many ways to improve it. Although persistently poor sleep hygiene makes you more susceptible to disease, the impacts of poor sleep are cumulative, and you can establish new habits to improve sleep that work for you.
Here’s exactly how poor sleep affects your heart health and what you can do about it.
Your blood pressure (and stress level) will likely increase
Over time, not getting enough sleep can raise your blood pressure. One reason for this, as Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez of the Mayo Clinic explains in an article for the clinic, is that sleep helps the body control hormones needed to manage stress and metabolism.
Research shows that sleep deprivation can elevate levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. Too much of this over time can raise blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, no. 1 cause of death in the United States.
This could be a chicken-or-egg scenario for insomniacs, as well as people whose hearts start racing when they realize their alarm will go off in just a few hours. You may be stressed out about sleep because you don’t get enough of it, which turns acute stress into a long-term stressful situation.
If you’re looking for more shut-eye tips, check out this five-minute “to-do list” hack that helped one of CNET’s editors deal with his insomnia.
Over time, you may have a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke
Because poor sleep can contribute to high blood pressure, which impairs cardiovascular health, it makes sense that poor sleep is also linked to a higher risk of cardio-cerebral vascular events, including events like stroke or heart attack.
A more recent study this year found a link between insomnia and five hours of sleep or less and an increased risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Fatigue can lead to other harmful (but not irreversible) habits
A poor night’s sleep before training the next day can impact your exercise by making it more difficult, possibly more painful, and just less fun overall. Of course, feeling too tired to exercise means you’ll do it less often, and you shouldn’t force it if your body needs a rest. But over time, a lack of physical activity caused by poor sleep (or otherwise) can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
In fact, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your heart health, and it doesn’t have to be a full workout every time. Physical activity can lower your blood pressure and help you manage cholesterol, blood sugar and other factors.
Because sleep deprivation also affects our body’s hormones, your appetite can also be affected.
As Rebecca Stetzer, a registered dietitian, explained in an article for Gundersen Health System, the hormones that regulate hunger will be disrupted after poor sleep and can make you crave foods high in added sugar, fat, or sodium. more often than normal. This means you may be feeling so exhausted that you’re looking for the quickest — and often sugary — snack that will give you the energy you need.
Like lack of movement, diets that are too high in sugar or sodium compared to other nutrients our bodies need can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Overall, getting enough sleep is a part of your heart health, but it’s an important part. In addition to your level of physical activity, the amount of nutrients you consume, lifestyle factors like smoking, and your ability to check in every once in a while for a visit to the doctor, sleep is a determining factor in the health of your heart.
But daily routines like diet and exercise are never permanent – you can change them as you see fit anytime or whenever you can. Here are some additional tips for improving your sleep and what to know about screening for heart disease.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.