Is there a relationship between sleep and cardiovascular health? Medical professionals and studies say yes. A good night’s sleep is an essential component to feeling alert and at one’s best. When this is unable to occur over the short term, it can lead to daytime sleepiness and an inability to focus and maintain attention. If poor sleep becomes a consistent issue, the long-term effects can be far more dire.
Today’s lifestyle is commonly fast-paced, leaving little time for restorative rest. Individuals are “plugged in” 24/7. This high intensity way of living often leads to insomnia or simply not enough hours in the day to get the medically recommended amount of rest.
Physiologically speaking, when the body sleeps, healing and restoration occur. Though sleep can feel like a luxury, it is also a necessity for maintaining optimum health. Medical professionals recommend that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
How Poor Sleep Affects Cardiovascular Health
Scientific studies have shown that long-term sleep deprivation can lead to serious consequences, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. In addition, sleep apnea can be an extremely harmful and sometimes fatal consequence. Let’s take a moment to look more specifically at the negative impact these issues can have on an individual’s cardiovascular well-being.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to increased cortisol levels, as well as problems like insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes. These imbalances in the body’s chemicals lead to unhealthy weight gain and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). When the human body carries too much weight, it increases strain and stress on the heart, making a much higher risk of heart attack and heart disease.
Type 2 Diabetes
When blood glucose levels in the body remain elevated for extended periods, diabetes can develop. Uncontrolled blood sugars over time damage the veins and arteries of the cardiovascular system, predisposing those with this issue to heart disease and the risks that come along with it.
When the body is at rest, the parasympathetic nervous system tells the body’s blood pressure to lower. This allows the heart to rest and rejuvenate. When sleep is disrupted or not occurring, the blood pressure remains elevated, causing the cardiovascular system to work harder. Over the long term, this can lead to a significantly increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
This sleep disorder is prevalent yet underdiagnosed. When the airway becomes blocked during sleep, it repeatedly depletes the body’s oxygen levels during sleep. It leads to poor sleep and forces the heart to work harder to oxygenate the body. Over time, this strain can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and hypertension.
Research shows that maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is directly correlated with cardiovascular health. Reducing screen time, caffeine intake, and stress can all help you to sleep better at night. If you are concerned about your sleep habits, contact your healthcare professional. Committing to getting those 7-8 hours is a commitment to keeping your heart happy and healthy.