RIDGEWOOD, N.J. -- Most people know that not getting enough sleep can impact day to day life, but many are surprised to hear that a lack of sleep can also negatively impact your heart health.
"As Americans increasingly cut back on sleep in favor of social, leisure or work-related activities, the relation of sleep disorders to cardiac disease is becoming clearer," said Dr. Jeffrey P. Barasch, medical director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at The Valley Hospital. "Sleep disorders have emerged as being related to hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes."
One common condition, sleep apnea, contributes to many cardiac consequences. Those affected experience interruptions of their breathing during sleep caused by a collapse of the airway in the throat. When this occurs, the heart rate rises, the oxygen level in the blood drops and sleep is disrupted. "This has harmful effects on the body," said Barasch. "Studies have shown that the most common time for sudden death in patients with sleep apnea is from midnight to 6 a.m." Roughly two-thirds of patients admitted to the hospital with angina or heart attacks have sleep apnea.
The good news is that treatment of sleep apnea has been shown to improve heart function in patients with heart failure, and it increases the success of treatment of heart arrhythmias. "The best advice for people who have cardiac disease is to identify and treat an underlying sleep disorder, if they have one, and for those who have a sleep disorder to continue treatment to avoid developing or exacerbating a cardiac or other medical problem," said Barasch.
For those who do not suffer from sleep apnea, getting the proper amount of rest is still important. One study showed that women who sleep less than six hours or more than nine hours have an increased risk of coronary artery disease. Other studies have also shown that sleep deprivation leads to an increase in appetite, especially for carbohydrates and fatty foods, which can lead to weight gain.
"The amount of sleep that we need every night depends on our age," said Barasch. "The National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommend that adults receive at least seven hours of sleep nightly for optimal health."
For more information or to schedule an appointment at Valley’s Center for Sleep Medicine, call 201-251-3487.