Study Shows Poor Sleep Harms Heart

It is well documented that sleep is essential for good health. That’s why we write about it so often. And, for years, doctors have known that poor sleep harms cholesterol levels. Now, new research has reinforced our understanding of the link between poor sleep and bad heart health.

A large study once found that getting less than five hours of sleep a night heightened the risk of high triglycerides, high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol. Sleeping too much had similar results — with women being more impacted by oversleeping than men. It seemed people had to hit a sweet spot to avoid the risk.

Other studies looking at sleep and cholesterol reinforced the finds. But, the researchers in those studies thought the link might have been caused by lifestyle factors. Daytime drowsiness caused by lousy sleep might have led people to eat fattier foods, exercise less and feel more stress — all of which negatively impact cholesterol. Regardless of the reason why it happened, poor sleep correlated with bad cholesterol levels.

New research has given people concerned about their heart health even more reason to get their sleep habits on track. A study using the Department of Health’s survey of people living in Citrus County, Florida, found that folks with the most irregular sleep habits had more than twice the risk for heart disease than people with consistent sleep patterns. If anything can convince you to set a bedtime routine and stick with it, that might be it!

Doctors at Bayfront Health Seven Rivers used the information to compare sleeping patterns and heart health. “Inadequate and erratic sleep can lead to heart muscle exhaustion,” said Dr. Preeti Lekhra. “Get adequate rest and keep your heart at its best.”

Too much change in your sleeping patterns — be it bedtime or the amount of sleep — is linked to high blood pressure, fluctuating blood lipids and insulin resistance. Stress, sleep apnea and chronic insomnia can all contribute to sleeping problems. Another problem can be “revenge bedtime procrastination,” wherein you stay up too late for no good reason. It’s caused by stress when you feel like you don’t get enough “me time” because your day is too filled with tasks for others. Trying to take a few minutes in the day to breathe and focus on yourself can be a big help. But, speaking to your doctor is also a must if setting a bedtime and having a ritual simply isn’t working for you.    

Adults between the ages of 18 and 64 should get seven to nine hours a night. People 65 and older should sleep seven to eight. Your body heals tissue — including heart muscle — as you sleep. It also fights infections and processes memories. Without that time to physically and mentally rest, your body is under more significant stress while you are awake. With the discovery that people who sleep poorly are at twice the risk for heart disease, it’s something to take seriously. If you struggle and have already tried all the tricks of limiting screen time, caffeine, setting a bedtime, taking a bath and going to bed on time, it’s time to talk to your doctor!

Banner image: Ketut Subiyanto via Pexels

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