How Does Lack of Sleep Affect Your Heart?

Many of the side effects of bad sleep are experienced almost immediately. Most people have started the day at least once with dark circles or bags under their eyes. The inability to focus and cravings for caffeine or sugar soon follow. What is less known about sleep, though, is how it directly affects organs like the heart. Though you may not experience it instantly, lack of sleep has measurable negative consequences for heart health. Inadequate sleep has been linked to higher stress, higher blood pressure, and a greater risk of heart attack and heart disease. Whitney Sleep Center explores how getting quality sleep is necessary for maintaining a healthy heart.

Keeps the Heart’s Arteries Open

Calcium and plaque can build up in the arteries of the heart. This buildup is so well linked to heart problems that doctors use images of it to predict cardiac events like heart attacks. Various studies clearly show that lack of sleep directly relates to the amount of plaque in the heart’s arteries and valves. In a study by Harvard Medical School, researchers repeatedly disrupted the sleep cycle of mice. After 16 weeks, the mice with poor sleep had more arterial plaque buildup than mice with normal sleep schedules. While the exact molecular processes are still being studied, the connection between sleep and heart health is abundantly clear. One study published in The Journal of The American Heart Association plainly states, “Increased efforts should be made to identify, treat, and educate patients about the importance of sleep for the potential prevention of cardiovascular events.” 

Manages Blood Pressure 

Many people connect stress and diet to high blood pressure, but sleep is mistakenly overlooked. During a good night’s sleep, your heart rate and blood pressure naturally drop. This is called “nocturnal dipping”. In the absence of proper sleep, this important process is blunted. Many studies show that if your blood pressure doesn’t naturally dip when you sleep, you have a higher risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Non-dipping has also been linked to stroke, heart attack, and obesity. It’s important to get normal, healthy sleep that allows your blood pressure to naturally drop by about ten to twenty percent every night. 

Maintains Healthy Weight Levels 

Diet and exercise are always associated with a healthy heart. Research clearly shows that sleep is a necessary addition to these factors. Obesity and diabetes have been proven to increase the risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease. When a good night’s sleep is skipped or inhibited, it causes a spike of ghrelin (a hormone that signals hunger) the following day. Not only does poor sleep cause increased appetite, but poor sleepers often crave more sugary foods. Insufficient sleep has also been linked to elevated stress levels and a disruption in how the body metabolizes food. Good sleep is crucial to maintaining a healthy weight and heart.  

Contact Whitney Sleep Center 

Sleep powerfully influences our overall health, so it is important to manage our sleep and make healthy choices. At Whitney Sleep Center, we have board-certified specialists and sleep doctors to discuss your current sleep patterns and any difficulty you may be having in attaining or maintaining sleep. We understand the unique needs of our patients with sleep disorders. Our family-run business is dedicated to prioritizing your concerns, answering your questions, and assisting you in improving your sleep, and overall health, through our treatments. Reach out to us now to schedule a sleep study or to inquire about our treatments and services.