Insomnia and heart disease: is there a link?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects many people every year. It’s important to understand how it can be linked to heart disease and other heart-related conditions, as well as the effects of poor sleep on overall health. In this blog post, we will discuss what sleep apnea is and whether or not poor sleep may lead to heart diseases such as heart attack and stroke.

The health effects of insomnia

sleep apnea

According to previous research, around 30% of the American population has some type of insomnia symptoms, which have been linked to an increased risk of diabetes and other diseases. However, only 10% of the population has a persistent sleep problem, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

Insomnia symptoms include:

  • difficulty falling asleep
  • difficulty staying asleep throughout the night
  • waking up too early in the morning

Chronic sleeplessness is defined as occurring at least three times per week for at least three months. According to the AASM, “Chronic insomnia may have a significant impact on physical, mental, and emotional health by lowering daytime alertness, mood, memory function, and cognitive performance.”

“Sleep is beneficial to the body in general,” said Yale Medicine cardiologist Joyce Oen-Hsiao, MD. “It allows the body to relax and recover after a long day. Being able to recharge your body might lead to an increase in metabolism and reduced stress, which can all contribute to better cardiac health.”

“There’s a fascinating link between sleep-wake cycles and cardiovascular regulation,” says Deena Kuruvilla, MD, a Yale Medicine neurologist.

“Non-rapid eye movement sleep, for example, has been shown in studies to lower blood pressure and heart rate while increasing parasympathetic activity throughout the night. Insomnia may have an impact on circadian heart regulation and cause cardiovascular disease and stroke as a result.”

The most efficient treatment for chronic insomnia, according to the AASM, is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This treatment combines behavioral tactics such as establishing a consistent sleep routine with cognitive ideas like replacing pessimistic thoughts about sleeplessness with more realistic expectations.

“The National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night,” Bill Fish, a trained sleep coach, says. “You aren’t if you are not getting enough rest. You’re probably suffering from anxiety as well, and frankly aren’t giving your heart the time it requires to be at rest.”

“On the other hand,” he continued, “insomnia can also be viewed as a ‘check engine light’ type of situation. If you’re having trouble falling asleep on a nightly basis and it isn’t usual for you, your body may be trying to tell you something. If this problem persists for more than two weeks, it’s essential to visit your doctor to discuss things further.”

Does sleep deprivation affect heart health?

sleep apnea

Sleeping difficulties, including sleep deprivation and broken sleep, have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Sleep is an important time for the body to recover. Heart rate decreases, blood pressure drops, and breathing stays steady during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep stages. These changes minimize stress on the heart, allowing it to mend from strain incurred throughout the day.

People who don’t get enough nightly sleep spend less time in the deep phases of NREM sleep, which are good for the heart. People whose sleep is frequently disturbed may also be affected by this problem.

Chronic sleeping deprivation has been connected to a slew of cardiac issues, including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, heart attack, obesity, diabetes, and stroke.

Sleep and blood pressure

Blood pressure drops by around 10-20 percent during normal, healthy sleep. This is known as nocturnal dipping, and it has been linked to cardiac health in studies.

Sleep deprivation, whether from a lack of sleep or disruptions in sleep, is linked with non-dipping blood pressure levels. Non-dipping blood pressure levels have been linked to poor sleep.

In fact, nocturnal blood pressure has been found to be more predictive of heart problems than daytime high blood pressure. Non-dipping has been linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. It’s also been connected to kidney issues and poor brain blood flow.

Several studies have shown that sleep loss causes raised daytime blood pressure, although it does not affect all people equally. The link between insufficient sleep and high blood pressure is most apparent among middle-aged individuals. People who work long hours in demanding professions or have other hypertension risk factors are more likely to have increased blood pressure as a result of chronic poor sleep.

Sleep and coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease is the most common cause of death in the United States. It occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries, hardening and narrowing them as a result of atherosclerosis. This lowers the heart’s capacity to obtain adequate blood and oxygen flow.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to atherosclerosis. Inflammation occurs as a result of sleep loss, which is characterized by the presence of white blood cells from the immune system in the arteries. Chronic inflammation is triggered by poor sleeping, which helps to cause plaque build-up and hardening of the arteries.

Sleep deprivation’s influence on heart disease is likewise thought to be impacted by sleep’s influence on blood pressure. Hypertension puts strain on the arteries, making them less efficient in transporting blood to the heart and contributing to heart disease.

Sleep and heart failure

When the heart fails to pump adequate amounts of blood throughout the body, it is referred to as heart failure. Observational research of almost 400,000 people found significant links between sleeping issues and heart failure.

In research published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, people who slept fewer than seven hours each night had an increased risk of heart failure. Heart failure was also more prevalent in individuals who exhibited signs of unhealthy sleep such as insomnia symptoms, daytime drowsiness, snoring, and being an evening person. The more signs of bad sleep that one individual had, the greater their chance of suffering from heart failure.

Sleep and heart attacks

A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is an illness in which blood flow to the heart is blocked. Because of the harm caused when the heart does not get enough oxygen, heart attacks can be deadly.

Sleep deprivation raises the risk of heart attacks. Individuals who slept less than six hours each night had a 20% increased chance of having a heart attack, according to one research. While NREM sleep helps the heart recover and slow down, REM sleep is characterized by greater stress and activity. Inadequate sleep might disrupt the equilibrium of these phases, raising the danger of a heart attack.

Sleep interruptions have also been linked to a heightened risk of heart attacks. Cardiac stress and possibly a heart attack can be induced by frequent sleep disturbances because both heart rate and blood pressure may rapidly surge when waking up.

Sleep and stroke

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted, causing brain cells to die due to lack of oxygen. A blood clot or plaque blocking an artery is the cause of ischemic strokes. A transient ischemic attack (TIA) (also known as a mini-stroke) happens when a blood vessel becomes blocked for only a short duration.

In research, sleep deprivation has been linked to a greater risk of stroke. Sleep deprivation raises blood pressure and is considered the greatest stroke risk factor because of this. Insufficient sleep can also make it easier for blockages to form and cause mini-strokes or strokes, according to a study published in the journal Sleep Medicine.

Sleep and obesity

Overweight and obesity are strongly linked with a variety of cardiovascular and metabolic issues, including hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

A lack of sleep has been linked to obesity in several studies. Individuals who get less than seven hours of sleep each night are more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI) or be obese. Sleep aids in the regulation of appetite hormones, and insufficient or disrupted sleep may lead to overeating and an increase in high-calorie food cravings.

Sleep and type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a long-term disease in which the level of blood sugar, often known as blood glucose, is excessively high owing to an inability of the body to process sugar correctly. Blood glucose levels above normal damage blood vessels and have a negative impact on cardiovascular health. People with diabetes are twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke23 than individuals who do not have this condition.

Blood sugar is affected by a variety of factors, but insufficient sleep has been linked to poorer glucose metabolism. Poor sleep is associated with prediabetes, which is characterized by poor blood sugar control despite normal or elevated glucose levels. People who suffer from diabetes and have sleep disturbances could have a harder time regulating their blood sugar. Insufficient or restless sleep might make it more difficult for people with type 2 diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. People with type 2 diabetes may develop narrowed arteries over time.

Sleep and heart rate

The heart rate lowers during NREM sleep stages and then rises as you prepare to wake up in ordinary sleep.

Sleep deprivation, which involves abrupt arousals, may produce a significant increase in heart rate. People who suffer from sleep problems are also more likely to report an erratic heartbeat, according to research. As a result, lack of sleep might be linked to heart palpitations for these reasons.

In addition, researchers discovered that individuals who have frequent night terrors are considerably more prone to have an abnormal heart rhythm. It’s possible that recurrent dreams can make your heart race. Recurring dreams may raise your heart rate, and if you experience a nightmare while sleeping, you might wake up feeling like your heart is racing.

Sleep disorders and heart health

heart disease and insomnia

Sleep disorders, particularly insomnia, have been linked to negative impacts on heart health. Insomnia is one of the most prevalent sleep problems, and it is frequently accompanied by insufficient sleep, which can raise cardiovascular health risks.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a breathing problem that has been linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure. When individuals with OSA’s airway is blocked during sleep, they have recurrent pauses in breathing.

Interrupted breathing from OSA leads to fragmented sleep, one of the reasons why it is linked to a number of cardiac issues. In addition, altered breathing reduces the amount of oxygen in the circulation, exacerbating the effects of OSA on heart health.

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) and periodic limb movement disorder are two sleep-related disorders that have been linked to heart problems. While the mechanism behind this link is unknown, it may be due to abnormal activation of the cardiovascular system, which results in increased and fluctuating heart rate and blood pressure in people with these illnesses.

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders, in which a person’s internal clock is out of sync with day and night, have been linked to heart ailments. People who work night shifts and have to sleep during the day are prone to a variety of ailments, including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and cardiac problems like a stroke or heart attack.

Sleeping too much and heart health

sleep disturbance

Despite the fact that sleep deprivation’s negative health effects are well-known, numerous research has also discovered links between excessive sleeping, generally defined as more than nine hours of sleep per night, and cardiac disease.

Although more study is needed, many experts believe that underlying health conditions causing aberrant sleep are also associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Nonetheless, this information serves as a warning that there is no relationship between more sleep and improved health.

Sleep for people with heart disease

daytime sleepiness

Sleep deprivation can damage the heart, so it’s critical for those who have cardiovascular issues to prioritize obtaining good sleep. Improved sleeping has even been linked to a decreased risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases in people at high risk.

Unfortunately, certain heart diseases might cause difficulty in sleeping. Diabetes, for example, can result in frequent nocturnal urination, and other cardiovascular issues may produce chest pain when attempting to fall asleep. Worry and concern about one’s cardiac health may also make it difficult to unwind and fall asleep normally.

It’s critical to talk with your doctor about heart-healthy sleep, since a variety of variables might influence both sleeping habits and heart health. A physician can help you develop a unique strategy to improve your sleep while also addressing other lifestyle concerns such as nutrition and exercise, which are crucial for your heart and general health.

Conclusion

People with heart disease often have difficulty sleeping, and research has shown that poor sleep can lead to a variety of heart-related problems. However, there are ways to improve heart-healthy sleep. Sleeping for more than nine hours per night has been linked to heart disease, so people should aim for around eight hours of sleep per night. Additionally, those with heart disease should talk to their doctor about strategies for improving their sleep.

FAQ

Is insomnia a symptom of congestive heart failure?

No, insomnia is not a symptom of congestive heart failure.

How do you treat an insomnia attack?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the treatment for insomnia will vary depending on its underlying cause. However, some common treatments for insomnia include changes to sleep habits, prescription medications, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Can Chest Pain be from lack of sleep?

Yes, chest pain can be a symptom of sleep deprivation. This is because when a person does not get enough sleep, their heart rate and blood pressure can become irregular, which may lead to chest pain. Additionally, sleep deprivation can cause stress and anxiety, which are also associated with chest pain.

Can you be awake during a heart attack?

No, you cannot be awake during a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the heart’s blood supply is suddenly blocked, which can cause the heart muscle to die. This process is not reversible, so it’s important to seek medical attention immediately if you think you are having a heart attack.

Resources

  1. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/how-heart-works
  2. https://j-stroke.org/journal/view.php?doi=10.5853/jos.2017.02887
  3. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007115.htm
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/about.htm

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