BHealthy Blog

Sleep and Your Heart

Woman Asleep in Bed

By Dr. Scott DavisBaptist Health Heart Institute/Arkansas Cardiology-Little Rock

Not only do you feel better after a good night’s sleep, but you may be doing your heart a favor. A new study shows that healthy sleep is associated with reduced risk for heart disease and stroke.

How did the study work?

People who scored five out of five for healthy sleep behaviors had a 35% lower risk for heart disease, 34% lower risk for coronary heart disease, and 34% lower risk for stroke.

What was considered a healthy sleep behavior?

  • Early chronotype (a genetic likelihood to be an early riser)
  • Sleeping 7 to 8 hours per day
  • Never or rarely experiencing insomnia
  • Not snoring
  • Not having frequent excessive daytime sleepiness

When all five sleep behaviors were considered together, the association with heart risk was stronger as compared to any one sleep behavior.

Can your sleep habits affect your genetic likelihood for disease?

Things like diet and physical activity can affect genetic risk, so the researchers also tested whether sleep behavior would have a similar effect. They did not find a connection between a healthy sleep score and genetic cardiovascular risk.

How does less sleep impact the heart?

It’s not completely clear why less sleep is so bad for heart health, but researchers know that sleeping too little causes issues with underlying health conditions and processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure and inflammation. The same may be true for oversleeping.

One of the reasons we know how important sleep is to the heart is that people with sleep apnea (which causes them to wake often throughout the night) often have compromised heart health. This is because without long, deep periods of rest, certain chemicals are activated that keep the body from achieving extended periods in which heart rate and blood pressure are lowered.

What is the takeaway?

Healthy sleep patterns and treating sleep disorders may play an important role in preventing cardiovascular disease, regardless of a person’s genetic risk.

To read more about why good sleep habits are important for overall health and wellbeing, visit our Health Library. To learn more about scheduling a sleep study to diagnose and treat existing sleep problems, find a Baptist Health sleep center today.