Regular good night’s sleep key to keeping heart healthy
Not getting enough sleep can have harmful effects on your heart, an expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has said.
The ideal amount of sleep is between six to eight hours, said cardiologist Alan S. Gertler, M.D., associate professor of medicine in UAB’s Division of Cardiovascular Diseases and part of UAB’s Heart and Vascular Services.
“Deep, high-quality sleep is needed to lower heart rate and blood pressure, which reduce stress on the heart,” Gertler said.
Heart rate and blood pressure also rise and fall during rapid eye movement (REM) in response to dreams. According to the National Institutes of Health, those variable rates also contribute to making the heart healthier.
“Without enough sleep, there is an increase in blood pressure and stress hormones, lower glucose tolerance and weight gain. All of these factors can increase the risk of coronary artery disease,” Gertler said.
Sleep deprivation, which generally results from getting less than six hours of sleep per night, “can lead to elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, which may be a marker of inflammation of the endothelial lining of the arteries, which can increase the risk of atherosclerosis,” Gertler warned.
Another sleep-related issue that can lead to heart problems is sleep apnea.
“Sleep apnea is a very common problem. It causes not enough air to get into the lungs through the mouth and nose during sleep, decreasing the amount of oxygen in your blood. As a result, sleep is interrupted through the night, and the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, cardiac arrhythmias and stroke increase,” Gertler said.
Gertler urges any patient who struggles with sleep to discuss the problem with his or her primary care doctor.