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How Sleep Can Impact Your Heart’s Health

by in Medical Care May 16, 2019

One of every four deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart disease. Every 42 seconds, an American has a heart attack. When we think of heart disease, we often consider contributing factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity.

Like many other vital parts of our bodies, the health of the cardiovascular system can also be impacted by the quality and quantity of our sleep.

Lack of sleep is a growing problem in the industrialized world. On average, we get about 90 minutes less sleep per night than we did in the early 1900s.  
A study from Japan in the mid-1990s showed that men who got less than five hours per night of sleep more than doubled their risk for an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), and a Nurse’s Health study from 2003 showed a 82% increased in coronary heart disease for women getting less than five hours of sleep, and a 30% increase for those getting six hours of sleep per night.

There are two main factors that can create the poor sleep quality and quantity conditions that can lead to heart problems.

Insomnia

Just about everyone has spent a long, frustrating night waiting for sleep that just wouldn’t come. For many, insomnia is brought on by temporary factors and resolves relatively quickly. For others, the struggle to sleep is an ongoing problem that requires medical treatment.

Insomnia causes the stress hormone cortisol to be released in increased amounts, both during the night and continuing into the day as your body struggles to stay awake and alert. Increased levels of cortisol can cause cholesterol , blood sugar, and blood pressure to rise, upping the risk of heart issues.

Finding and treating the underlying cause of insomnia is important. A medical exam is a good first step to screen for medical causes of insomnia, as well as to review your sleep habits for potential improvement. More complex cases may require a take-home or in-lab sleep study to screen to conditions like Restless Leg Syndrome or excessive brain wave activity or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat physiological stress that may be keeping you awake.

Sleep Apnea

Similar to insomnia, sleep apnea also causes increased levels of stress hormones, which in turn can lead to increased cardiovascular risk.

An important difference is that sleep apnea can not only lead to a lower quantity of sleep, but a lower quality of sleep as well. A person with sleep apnea may technically be “asleep” for the recommended 7-8 hours per night, but if that sleep is interrupted by oxygen deprivation dozens, or even hundreds of times during the night, the levels of stress hormones can increase as if they were not sleeping at all.

The closing of the airway with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can also cause increased blood pressure and heart rate, separate from ongoing cardiovascular issues caused by elevated stress hormone.

OSA can also lead to increases in other risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity and diabetes.

One study found men with severe sleep apnea were 58% more likely to develop congestive heart failure over an eight-year period.

Diagnosing OSA can be done via a take-home or in-lab sleep study, and treatment involves the ongoing use of CPAP or APAP machines to ensure adequate oxygen flow all night long.

At Apple Healthcare, we offer take-home sleep studies than can be used to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea in the comfort of your own bed without the cost and hassle of an in-lab sleep study. We also help patients with OSA improve the quality of their sleep by providing APAP machines and masks.

Want to learn more about the take-home sleep studies we offer or make an appointment? Give us a call at 865-524-1234!

May is “Sleep Month” at Apple Healthcare. All month long we’ll be helping you learn how to get great sleep to enjoy great health! Follow us on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram, or subscribe to our Newsletter for more information.