A good night of sleep is more than just “beauty rest.” Getting good sleep is linked to your mental wellness and your physical health. Inadequate sleep increases brain fog and mood swings, weakens your immune system, and takes a toll on your cardiovascular health 一 even raising your blood pressure.
As a board-certified cardiologist, Dr. Henock Saint-Jaques and his experienced team of cardiologists at Harlem Cardiology in East Harlem, New York, diagnose and treat cardiovascular conditions, including high blood pressure. But we also want to help you understand the link between good quality sleep and cardiovascular health so you can take action to improve your sleep and protect your heart.
How a lack of sleep affects your heart health
Your body uses sleep to repair itself, bolster its immune system, and regenerate new cells. Good sleep helps your mind stay sharp and your body perform at its peak functionality. When your body doesn’t get enough time to complete its nightly tasks, you might experience short-circuited moods, poor mental clarity, or decreased athletic performance. Your cardiovascular system, like all other body systems, doesn’t perform as well without the proper sleep, and for adults, that’s seven to nine hours each night.
When you sleep, your heart rate and blood pressure naturally slow down. If you don’t sleep long enough though, your blood pressure remains at a higher level than normal. Over time, this chronic lack of sleep can contribute to hypertension.
A lack of sleep also increases your risk of obesity and diabetes 一 two conditions that contribute to high blood pressure. High blood pressure can be treated with medication and lifestyle modifications, but untreated high blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack and strokes.
Sleep conditions that impact your heart
Unfortunately, it’s not just a lack of sleep that affects your heart. Sleep disorders can also compromise your heart health. Both insomnia and sleep apnea stop you from getting the quality and quantity of hours of sleep you need. Sleep apnea is partucialry dangerous because it causes you to stop breathing periodically throughout the night, which increases your blood pressure.
The vicious cycle of cortisol and lack of sleep
A lack of sleep stimulates your body to produce cortisol, the stress hormone. While short bursts of cortisol are beneficial, chronically unmanaged stress often leads to weight gain, sleep troubles, and increased risk of high blood pressure. To compound matters, sleep deprivation leads to increased cortisol, but high stress levels can make it harder to fall asleep.
If you have a sleep disorder as well as a cardiovascular condition, you may need to treat both simultaneously.
Tips for practicing better sleep hygiene
The best way to protect your heart from sleep deprivation is to practice sleep hygiene, which refers to strategies that help you sleep better. This includes:
- Sleeping in a cool room
- Sleeping in the dark (use black out curtains or an eye mask if you need to make your room darker)
- Avoid TV or phone screens for 1-2 hours before bed
- Go to bed at the same time every night
- Exercise each day (which helps you fall asleep faster)
- Soak up some sunshine in the morning (which helps set your circadian rhythm)
Even if you log seven to nine hours of sleep each night, it’s still important to focus on other heart-healthy habits, including regular exercise, following a balanced diet, avoiding smoking, and managing stress levels.
Treat any underlying cardiovascular conditions
If you already have an underlying heart condition, it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene in addition to following any and all treatment plans prescribed by Dr. Saint-Jacques.
To schedule an appointment for any of our services at our Madison Avenue office, give us a call at 646-381-2181. You can also request an appointment online.