Sleep and Cardiac Health — Could They Be Related?

Protecting your heart should be high on your mind when you think about getting a good nights sleep. The duration of sleep among people has decreased by 90 minutes to two hours for every person over the last 50 years. However several studies conducted recently have shown links between the shortened duration of sleep and the heightened risks of heart disease prompting the researchers to conclude there definitely exists a relation between sleep and cardiac health.

A review of 15 medical studies conducted by the European Heart Journal in 2011 involving approximately 475,000 people concluded that people with a sleep duration of fewer than six hours had a 48% heightened risk of developing or succumbing to coronary heart disease as well as a 15% higher risk of developing or succumbing to strokes. The sleep study also revealed that people who were sleeping more than nine hours every night also had an increased risk of developing cardiac problems by 38% and the risk from strokes was pegged at 65%.

The researchers cautioned that the mechanisms of heart disease haven’t been completely understood especially in people who had a shortened duration of sleep or prolonged. They concluded that the lack of sleep does not necessarily cause heart disease but only increases the risk factors for cardiac problems.

Another study conducted by the University of Chicago in 2008 established a link between shortened sleep and the higher risk of coronary artery calcification which is an indication of the following coronary heart disease. It is well known that the shortened duration of sleep can worsen hypertension as most people experience a drop in blood pressure during the night. The study concluded that shorter sleep alone isn’t a reason for the drop in blood pressure to take place.

Researchers are not certain whether this trend can be reversed because the effects of sleep on the heart is a relatively new area of study. Another problem which confronted the researchers was the fact that it is a complex task to measure sleep. Obtaining sleep measurements objectively requires an individual to wear an activity monitor which in every likelihood can change the sleep pattern of the individual. Therefore the researchers concluded that people receiving fewer than six hours of sleep every night aren’t probably headed in the right direction.

Is it possible to establish a definite pattern between sleep and cardiac health? Researchers have provided the following answers to justify their claim of how good sleep quality can prove beneficial for cardiac health.

The work on the heart is reduced greatly when an individual gets good quality sleep because it reduces the heart rate as well as the blood pressure during the night.

People who do not get the desired quantity of sleep display less variability in their heart rate because it remains elevated rather than fluctuating normally. This is not considered as a good sign because it is an indication of heightened stress.

Insulin resistance increases because of the lack of sleep and this is a risk factor for the development of heart disease and type II diabetes.

Shortened duration of sleep can increase C-reactive protein which is normally released with stress and inflammation. Cardiovascular disease and heart disease face a risk if the C-reactive protein remains high. The shortened duration of sleep also regulates the appetite leading to the individual eating more or having foods that are unhealthy for the heart.

As it can be seen from the above that is definitely a connection between sleep and cardiac health. People who are confronting problems with the sleep are advised to have themselves tested and obtain a solution from their physician failing which they would be dealing with a problem which is far worse than imagined.