Sleep & Heart Disease


Sleep is a time of rest for the entire body. Even the heart, which works day and night, naturally slows down during sleep. That’s why unhealthy heart function (caused by conditions such as heart disease) can deprive the body of restful sleep. Yet, the relationship between heart function and sleep works both ways. For instance, sleep-related breathing disorders have been shown to play a major role in causing several types of heart and blood vessel disease.

Sleep and the Heart

There are two distinct types of sleep: rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep (when most dreaming occurs), and non-REM sleep. Typically, when you fall asleep you begin in non-REM sleep. Most people spend about 80% of the night in this type of sleep. During non-REM sleep your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure all drop to levels below those that occur while you are awake. During REM sleep – approximately 20% of your time asleep – both your blood pressure and heart rate can go up and down. Any time you wake up from sleep (even briefly), your heart rate and blood pressure club, and your heart must work harder. When you wake up in the morning, your blood pressure and heart rate both go up and then stay at a higher level throughout the day.

Sleep and Heart Disease

Scientific studies have shown a direct connection among sleep, sleep disorders, and heart disease. There is an increased risk of sudden cardiac death (dying from heart stoppage) in the first several hours after waking up. It is known that there is an increased work demand on the heart that occurs when you wake up. People with sleep-related breathing disorders are more likely to have high blood pressure and are at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Treating certain sleep-related breathing disorders may actually decrease a person’s chances of developing certain heart diseases.

If you have any kind of hear condition, it is especially important to watch for signs that you may have a sleep-related breathing disorder….

Effects of Heart Disease on Sleep

We’ve established that the effects of sleep-related breathing disorders can cause heart disease. Yet, there are effects of heart disease on sleep that, though more subtle, are also important to address. For instance, patients with congestive heart failure often report difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. This may be due to shortness of breath that often accompanies heart failure. This shortness of breath that often accompanies heart failure. This shortness of breath is often worse when the patient lies down because blood in the legs flows back into the heart and can overwhelm its ability to pump. Heart failure patients may have orthopnea (shortness of breath when lying down) or paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea (waking up from sleep short of breath). Patients who experience these symptoms may feel like they have insomnia since their sleep is interrupted. In addition to experiencing these complications from heart disease, patients often worry about the long-term consequences of a heart attack or chronic heart disease. Anxiety by itself can lead to the development of chronic sleep problems.

There are many complex relationships between heart conditions and sleep-related breathing disorders. People with heart conditions need to take special care and seek medical attention i border to ensure their ability to sleep well.

Good Sleep – Healthy Heart

Many things can be done to maintain a healthy heart: eat a nutritional diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, get regular medical check-ups and get adequate amounts of food quality sleep. If you have any kind of heart condition, it is especially important to watch for signs that you may have a sleep0related breathing disorder, such as OSA, which could stress your heart. People with OSA are often overweight and experience loud snoring, gasping, or choking episodes while sleeping, as well as trouble staying awake during the daytime. If you already have hypertension or cardiovascular disease (coronary artery disease, angina pectoris, stroke), talk with your healthcare professional about whether or not you may have a sleep and breathing disorder, such as OSA or CSA. It is also important that patients with congestive heart failure be monitored for CSA and other sleep disorders. In contrast to people with OSA, Those with heart failure and CSA are commonly thin and may not snore at all.

If your healthcare professional thinks that you have a sleep disorder, he or she may suggest you have a diagnostic test, called a sleep study, or refer you to a sleep medicine specialist. Sleep studies are usually done in a sleep laboratory. Small sensors called electrodes are attached to your body to measure your sleep, breathing, heart rate, and oxygen level. The sleep specialist will be able to determine whether you have any abnormalities in the quality of your sleep. Your healthcare professional is then given the results and the two of you can decide on the best course of treatment. Sleep disorders are treatable, and can lead to a more healthy heart.

Don’t let your heart suffer. Contact us to schedule a sleep study.

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