Your Sleep Habits and Your Heart Health

Once upon a time, the sun went down and people went to sleep; the sun came up and people started their day. Even if your great grandparents did wake up in the middle of the night, they didn't have television or the internet to entice them to stay awake. On the other end of the spectrum, not having to get up to milk the cow means you might be able to sleep late more often. Choosing to stay up or sleep in may sound great, but in reality it could do you harm. Research increasingly shows that eight hours of sleep per night is best for your body and that regularly sleeping too much or too little can play havoc with your cardiovascular health.

How Sleep Affects Your Heart
You may already know that there's a connection between sleeping fewer than five hours per night and an increased risk for health problems. Many people, though, aren't aware of how profound an impact it can have on the body. Even less well-known is the connection between excessive sleep and chest pains or coronary artery disease. A 2012 study shed some light on how sleep problems affect heart health:

  • According to the researchers, people who slept too little were twice as likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack and 1.6 times more likely to suffer from congestive heart failure.
  • Those who slept more than eight hours per night on average were 1.1 times more likely to have coronary artery disease and were twice as likely to have angina.

Keep in mind that the occasional afternoon nap or late night party won't hurt you. What deteriorates long-term health is chronic sleep deprivation or regular oversleeping. Sleep deprivation may affect your body the same way stress does and can lead to inflammation (which plays a significant role in heart disease). Little is understood about how excessive sleep leads to heart problems, but researchers are continuing to study the relationship.

It's Quality as Well as Quantity
Unfortunately, spending exactly eight hours in bed isn't necessarily the solution to sleep-related health problems. Research shows that if you suffer from frequent sleep disturbances (taking a long time to fall asleep or waking frequently during the night) you might be as much as 98 percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease. Your risk for heart attack could increase by 80 percent and your risk of stroke by 102 percent.

Complicating the issue is the fact that sleep problems might be caused by a heart condition. Difficulty breathing, angina, or heart palpitations for instance, can all lead you to wake up multiple times during the night.

How to Sleep Better
With all of this in mind, establishing good sleep habits might be as important as eating right, exercising, or taking prescription medication. If you're sleeping too much or too little, try these techniques to help you get on track:

  • Avoid consuming caffeine or alcohol within four hours of bedtime.
  • Don't eat within two hours of going to bed.
  • Follow a relaxing nightly routine such as taking an evening bath and reading before turning out the light.
  • Create a sleep-friendly setting in your bedroom with curtains that hide outside light, comfortable bedding, optimal temperature, and a white noise machine.
  • Talk with your doctor about depression or health conditions that may lead to excessive sleep.



Aggarwal, Saurabh, et. al. "Sleep Patterns and Prevalence of Cardiovascular Outcomes." Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 59:1748 (2012) n.d. Web. April 25, 2012

Sabanayagam, Charumathi. "Sleep Duration and Cardiovascular Disease." SLEEP. 33:08 (2012) n.d. Web. April 25, 2012

"Sleep Problems Increase Risk for Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes and Obesity, Penn Study Shows." Penn Medicine. n.d. Web. January 19, 2012