3 Ways Sleep Affects Heart Health

June 4, 2024 · John Gallagher
how sleep affects heart health

The Silent Connection: 3 Ways Sleep Affects Heart Health

This isn’t the first or last time you’ll hear about the importance of a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways to protect your heart and overall well-being.

But there’s another under-the-radar way to give your heart the best chance to thrive: get good sleep. And in the pace of today’s world, sleep is typically one of the first things to go. We’ll trade sleep in a second for more productivity, more entertainment, more time to cross one more thing off the list.

It should come as no surprise, then, that one in three Americans don’t get enough sleep. That means 33% of Americans aren’t using sleep to protect their heart from disease, decay, or other complications.

If you ignore sleep, heart health is one of the first things to go. Sleep can help you regulate your blood pressure, stabilize your heart rhythm, and address both inflammation and your risk for cardiovascular disease.

1. Blood Pressure Regulation

Blood pressure is a critical indicator of heart health. That makes regulating blood pressure an important step in regulating long-term cardiovascular well-being. Controlling your blood pressure is also a great way to prevent heart disease and reduce your stroke risk.

During sleep, your body goes through different sleep cycles, including rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. Together, these cycles contribute heavily to your blood pressure.

Research has shown that inadequate sleep, especially chronic sleep deprivation, can disrupt the delicate balance of blood pressure regulation. Sleep deprivation may lead to higher blood pressure levels during both day and night, increasing your risk for conditions like hypertension. Over time, high blood pressure can strain the heart and arteries, increasing the likelihood of heart disease, heart attacks, and other serious conditions.

2. Heart Rhythm Stability

A healthy heart maintains a steady rhythm, which is regulated by a complex interplay of electrical signals. Sleep plays a vital role in supporting these rhythms. Disrupted sleep patterns can lead to irregular heartbeats, medically known as arrhythmias. The most common type of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, which occurs when the upper chambers of the heart beat irregularly and too fast.

Sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, has been linked to an increased risk of arrhythmias. The intermittent drops in oxygen levels and the resulting stress on the cardiovascular system can contribute to the development of heart rhythm abnormalities. When you prioritize sufficient, uninterrupted sleep, you minimize these risks. Instead, you give your body the best chance to protect your heart rhythm from any irregularities, including arrhythmias.

3. Inflammation and Heart Disease

Chronic inflammation is a common underlying factor in various cardiovascular diseases, including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and coronary artery disease. Sleep plays a crucial role in regulating inflammation in the body. Sleep deprivation has been shown to increase markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP).

Prolonged inflammation can damage blood vessels, leading to the accumulation of plaque and an increased risk of heart disease. Prioritizing sleep helps your body regulate inflammation and supports overall heart health. Adequate sleep allows your immune system to function optimally, reducing the risk of chronic inflammation-related heart conditions.

How Can I Fortify My Heart Health?

There’s a simple way to protect your heart health: prioritize sleep health.

Many of us think of sleep as a resting period for your body and your mind. To a certain extent, that’s true. Booth your body and mind rest during sleep. But during that period of rest, both your body and your mind are hard at work. During sleep, the body engages in vital processes such as tissue repair, immune system strengthening, and most relevant to heart health, cardiovascular restoration. Research has shown that sleep plays a pivotal role in regulating various heart-related factors.

Here are a few more ways you can fortify your heart health:

  • Prioritize a consistent sleep schedule: Aim for a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends. Going to bed and waking up at the same time helps regulate your body's internal clock, promoting better sleep quality.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine: Engage in calming activities before bed, such as reading, gentle stretching, or deep breathing exercises. This signals to your body that it's time to wind down.
  • Limit screen time: Exposure to electronic devices emitting blue light can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle. Limit screen time at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Implement a comfortable sleep environment: Ensure your bedroom is conducive to sleep – a comfortable mattress, proper room temperature, and minimal noise and light can make a significant difference.
  • Watch your diet: Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime. These can interfere with your sleep and affect heart health.
  • Stay active: Regular physical activity during the day promotes better sleep. However, avoid intense workouts too close to bedtime.
  • Manage stress: Chronic stress can negatively impact both sleep quality and heart health. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, or mindfulness into your routine to limit anxiety.
  • Limit naps: While short power naps can be beneficial, excessively long or late-afternoon naps can disrupt nighttime sleep.

You can also protect your heart health by tracking your sleep performance over time. Take note of any fluctuations or changes to your sleep hours, frequency, and longevity. Consider writing in a sleep journal or using a sleep tracking app for more detailed reporting. Whether you experience consistent sleep-wake episodes or you notice your sleep fluctuate regularly, recording details on your sleep is one of the first steps to improving it. And improving the quality of your sleep can have a directly positive effect on your heart health.

Make Your Sleep a Main Priority

If improving the quality of your sleep isn’t near the top of your priority list, it should be. Improving your sleep means improving your physical health, your memory, your mood, and other important biological factors.

At Mattress Warehouse, we’ve adopted a scientific approach to your sleep. Our bedMATCH sleep diagnostic program is the first of its kind, helping people identify the best mattress options for their body type. Our system considers your height, weight, muscle distribution, even your preferred sleeping style, before pairing you with mattress selections that can deliver the better-quality sleep you’re looking for — without any bias toward higher prices.

Take our five-minute bedMATCH quiz today to experience the better-quality sleep most people only dream about. Find a mattress that makes your heart, and your general health, a consistent priority.