Sleep and Heart Disease

According to large research studies, sleep loss and sleep complaints are associated with heart disease and heart attacks.1 People who sleep less than six hours on average are much more likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and be overweight (all of these conditions together are known as metabolic syndrome. People who are sleep deprived have a slower metabolism and trouble losing weight.2

blood pressure

Sleep disorders such as sleep-disordered breathing, including obstructive sleep apnea, affects more than 15% of the population, and causes daytime sleepiness and associated injuries (e.g., drowsy driving), hypertension, cognitive impairment, and is associated with diabetes and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and death. In children, sleep-disordered breathing is associated with cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors, attention-related behavioral problems, and poor academic performance.3

Chronic circadian disruptions and disorders such as those experienced by shift workers and teenagers with delayed sleep phase disorder have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. We generally don’t know how many people have circadian disorders but about 15-20% of the U.S. workforce are shift workers.4

Finally, symptoms related to cardiovascular disease can also be a cause of poor sleep. Angina (chest pain), arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), sleep apnea, and fluid build-up in the lungs due to heart failure may all disrupt sleep.

1Eaker ED, Pinsky J, Castelli WP. Myocardial infarction and coronary death among women: psychosocial predictors from a 20-year follow-up of women in the Framingham Study. Am J Epidemiol. 1992 Apr 15;135(8):854-64.
2Grandner MA, Chakravorty S, Perlis ML , Gurubhagavatula LO. Habitual sleep duration associated with self-reported
and objectively determined cardiometabolic risk factors. Sleep Medicine , Volume 15 , Issue 1 , 42 – 50.
3National Institutes of Health. National Institutes of Health Sleep Disorders Research Plan.
Last accessed August 5, 2015
4Vyas MV et al. Shift work and vascular events: systematic review and meta-analysis. MJ. 2012 Jul 26;345:e4800. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e4800.
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