Lifestyle Changes

Sleep and Heart Disease

Sleep is extremely important to your overall health. Sleeping plays an important role in immune function, metabolism, and heart health. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity have all been linked to a lack of sleep, which may increase your risk for cardiovascular disease. General consensus is that adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep a night.  

Given the importance of sleep, recognizing a sleep disorder may help you improve your sleep habits and your overall health. Common sleep disorders include: 

  • Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes breathing to stop or become very shallow. Symptoms of sleep apnea include dry mouth, snoring, and gasping for breath. Sleep apnea may lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
  • Insomnia: Insomnia is when a person has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both.  Insomnia is also linked to heart disease.
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS): RLS is the irresistible urge to move the legs. RLS generally worsens with age and can disrupt sleep.

Fortunately, there are ways to improve your sleep habits. We included a few recommendations from the CDC below:

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends.
  • Get enough physical activity during the day. Try not to exercise within a few hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid eating or drinking within a few hours of bedtime, especially alcohol and foods high in fat or sugar.
  • Lose weight. According to Johns Hopkins research, people with prediabetes and diabetes who lost belly fat improved sleep regardless of their age or gender, or how they lost the weight (for example, diet alone, or diet plus exercise).

If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, talk to your primary care provider. Better sleep may lead to an improvement in your overall health.

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