Give your Heart a Rest

With all our hectic and stressful lives, sleep is often an area of our health that gets neglected and treated as a luxury. While not having an occasional good night’s sleep can make you feel cranky and less productive, regularly shortchanging yourself of adequate sleep can also have serious negative health effects.

If you think you are not getting an adequate amount of sleep, talk to your healthcare provider to see if you may have a sleep disorder. In the twinkle of an eye, he or she may be able to put you on the path to a better night’s sleep.

When You Don’t Snooze, You Lose

Your mother was right: you need your rest. But if you find yourself tossing and turning night after night, you’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 50 to 70 million American adults have a sleep disorder.

Getting enough sleep is critical for thinking clearly. Sleep also helps fight off diseases, because the nerve cell clusters that control sleep interact closely with the immune system. A sleep shortage may even take a toll on your metabolism. When sleep is fragmented, several hormones — including those that regulate appetite — are not released normally. This can lead to weight gain and the onset of metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes.

For most adults, seven or eight hours a night is optimal. But it’s not always so easy to catch those ZZZs. Stress, caffeine, jet lag, night sweats during menopause — and a host of environmental factors and medical conditions — can all play a role in depriving you of sorely needed shut eye.

Sleep and Your Heart

According to the CDC, getting fewer than seven hours of shut eye can increase your risk of a variety of chronic health conditions. It can also worsen the pain of arthritis and fibromyalgia and put you at increased risk for anxiety, depression and asthma. But did you know that lack of quality sleep can also lead to conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke?

These conditions include:

High Blood Pressure

Typically, during a normal sleep cycle, your blood pressure goes down. When you have sleep issues, your blood pressure stays higher for a longer period of time. High blood pressure is one of the leading risks for heart disease and stroke. About 1 in 3 adults have high blood pressure.

High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, so the only way to know if you have it is to get it checked.

Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes causes sugar to build up in your blood, which can damage your blood vessels. Studies have shown that getting enough sleep may help improve blood sugar control.

If you have diabetes, you’re twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke than someone who doesn’t have diabetes — and at a younger age. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to have heart disease.

Blood Sugar Targets

A blood sugar target is the range you try to reach as often as possible.

Typical targets:

· Before a meal: 80-130 mg/dL.

· Two hours after the start of a meal: Less than 180 mg/dL.

Your blood sugar targets may be different depending on your age, any additional health problems you have and other factors.


Lack of sleep can lead to unhealthy weight gain. This is especially true for children and adolescents, who need more sleep than adults. Not getting enough sleep may affect a part of the brain that controls hunger.

People who have obesity, compared to those with a normal or healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions, including the following heart conditions:

· High blood pressure (Hypertension)

· Type 2 diabetes

· Coronary heart disease

· Stroke

Sleep-related conditions that can negatively affect your heart over time include:

Sleep Apnea

This occurs when your airway gets blocked repeatedly during sleep, causing you to stop breathing for short amounts of time. Sleep apnea can be caused by health problems such as obesity and heart failure. Sleep apnea affects how much oxygen your body gets while you sleep and increases the risk for many health problems, including high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.


· Feeling like sleep is not as restful as it once was.

· Being told you snore particularly loudly, make unusual noises or pause in your breathing.

· Daytime sleepiness: not feeling rested and feeling sleepy at times you shouldn’t be sleepy.

· Changes in libido or personality.

· Not being able to “catch up.” If you get more sleep on the weekends but it still doesn’t help, the problem is probably the quality of sleep, not the quantity.

If you think you or a loved one may suffer from sleep apnea, get an evaluation since untreated, it can lead to serious risks to your heart health.


People who have insomnia have trouble falling sleep, staying asleep or both. As many as 50% of adults experience short-term insomnia at some point during their lives. Insomnia is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. Over time, lack of quality sleep can lead to increased stress levels, less desire to be physically active and poor food choices.


1. Create a positive sleep environment by darkening your bedroom and by keeping it comfortable and free of distractions, like TV or computer screens.

2. Exercise early in the day.

3. Cut back on caffeine.

4. Get outside to get some fresh air every day.

5. Power down by turning off your electronic devices at least an hour before bed.

6. Avoid alcohol. Sure, a drink or two may help you to nod off, but it tends to keep you in the lighter stages of sleep.

7. Nix the naps. Naps can be part of normal sleep patterns for older people. But if you are having trouble getting to sleep at night, try to nap for only 20 minutes.

8. Put your worries on paper. If tomorrow’s “To Do” list is nagging at you, jot it down in a notebook kept near your bedside. Then tell yourself that you’ll deal with it tomorrow.

9. Don’t watch the clock; try turning it away from the bed.

10. Surrender to sleeplessness (temporarily). If you can’t sleep despite your best efforts, get up and do something else for a while.

Danger signals

So when should you suspect a sleep disorder?

· You fall asleep mid-conversation

· You can’t watch television without falling asleep

· Excessive snoring and breath-holding in sleep

· Nocturnal seizures and shaking spells

· Leg cramps

· If you have symptoms like these, your doctor may recommend an overnight stay in a sleep lab to reach a definitive diagnosis.

If you are concerned that your lack of sleep is affecting your heart health, schedule an appointment with a Lovelace Medical Group Primary Care Physician today by calling 505.727.2727.