Inadequate sleep is not just an annoying fact of life. Studies have shown it may raise your risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, the effect of poor sleep on cardiovascular disease is a two-way street:
- Inadequate sleep appears to contribute to cardiovascular disease.
- And cardiovascular disease may disturb your sleep.
- This could become an exhausting, vicious cycle if you ignore your sleep problems.
Possible Health Impact of Poor Sleep
Poor sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (clogging or hardening of the arteries that is associated with coronary artery disease), heart failure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and obesity.
Poor sleep also appears to increase the amount of certain substances in your body, such as C-reactive protein, that indicate inflammation is a problem. So, inflammation, which is how the body responds to injury, infection or disease, may be part of the reason poor sleep affects your cardiovascular system. Poor sleep also causes the body to produce more stress hormones, which may contribute to cardiovascular disease.
On the other hand, sometimes symptoms related to cardiovascular disease can be a cause of poor sleep. Conditions that may disrupt your sleep include:
- Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation)
- Sleep apnea (a series of breathing pauses during sleep that stress your cardiovascular system)
- Fluid buildup in the lungs due to heart failure
Improving Your Sleep
The good news is there are steps you can take to improve your sleep. It is a good idea to talk with your doctor or other members of your healthcare team about your sleep problems, even if you think they are minor. There may be lifestyle changes or treatments that can help you sleep better.
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