Taking Sleep Problems to Heart

Struggling to get your z’s? That could be bad news for your heart.

After a rough night of sleep, everything is a little off. You struggle to stay alert. Your attention is all over the place. You can’t remember where you left important things, such as your coffee. However, ongoing sleep problems affect more than your energy levels and focus. “There is a growing body of evidence that sleep deprivation and oversleeping both increase the risk for heart attack,” says David M.Baker, MD, Medical Director of Carson Tahoe Medical Group. “Roughly one out of three heart attacks results in death, and many of those occur to people without high cholesterol, diabetes, or other risk factors typically associated with heart disease.”

When you sleep, your body goes into recovery mode. Your heart rate slows and your blood pressure drops. If you don’t get enough quality sleep, your heart never gets a break. Your blood pressure stays the same. Over time, this nonstop effort wears on your heart and arteries, increasing your likelihood of high blood pressure and heart attack. Even if you get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep but wakeup repeatedly at night, your health may suffer. Interrupted sleep has the same negative consequences as lacking or excessive sleep.

The first step to getting back to sleep is identifying the source of your sleep problems. A sleep study can help but isn’t always necessary. Often, lifestyle changes and good sleep hygiene are enough. Consider the following:

  • If you’re overweight, work to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Lessen screen time before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening.
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment.
  • Use over-the-counter melatonin if needed.
  • Relax. Worrying won’t help anything.

“The last thing your sleep needs is another reason to stress about not sleeping,” Dr. Baker says. “So practice good sleep habits, adopt a healthy lifestyle, and don’t stress too much if you struggle to fall or stay asleep.”

Need expert care for your heart? Visit www.carsontahoe.com/heart to learn how Carson Tahoe Health can help.