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How Sleep Disorders Affect the Heart

When you have a disorder that deprives you of restorative sleep, you’re likely facing far more than fatigue. The effects that sleep deprivation can have on your health are widespread, especially when it comes to your cardiovascular health.

Our goal here at Heart Rhythm Associates is to help our patients maintain optimal cardiovascular function, which often includes other areas of your health, such as your sleeping patterns. 

Under the direction of Dr. Van De Bruyn, our team helps identify and mitigate your risks, including sleep disorders.

To help you better understand the impact that a sleep disorder can have on your heart health, here’s a look at how and why the two are connected.

Sleep disorders 101

There are many types of sleep disorders, but the ones we’re concerned with here are those that lead to lack of sleep. Between 50 and 70 million adults in the United States have a sleep disorder, including:

This list is far from complete, but these are the primary culprits when it comes to sleep loss.

The recommended numbers of hours you should sleep per night varies by age, but most adults should aim for seven to nine hours. Unfortunately, 37% of 20- to 39-year-olds report short sleep duration, as do 40% of 40- to 59-year-olds.

One of the primary reasons these numbers are worrisome when it comes to your heart health is that when you sleep, your blood pressure drops by about 10-20% (nocturnal dipping), your heart rate slows, and your breathing stabilizes. 

Lack of sleep and your heart health

To give you an idea of how sleep deprivation can negatively affect your cardiovascular health, let’s take a look at hypertension, or high blood pressure. As we mentioned, your body relies on nocturnal dipping to relieve some of the pressure on your blood vessels. 

If you’re not getting enough sleep, your blood pressure may not dip during the night, which means any hypertension continues through the night, which can damage your arteries. 

Not only does elevated blood pressure at night lead to overall hypertension, a study found that high nocturnal blood pressure is more predictive of heart problems.

Moving from hypertension, let’s take a look at another common problem — sleep apnea. With this sleep disorder, which affects 22 million American adults, your airways collapse throughout the night, causing your brain to rouse you time and again in order to breathe.

This constant waking leads to a significant loss of sleep that can lead to excessive daytime fatigue. But beyond the loss of energy, sleep apnea is found in 47-83% of those who have cardiovascular disease and 35% of those who are hypertensive (high blood pressure). 

In fact, research shows that untreated sleep apnea may elevate your risk of dying from heart disease by up to five times.

Tackling your sleep disorder for better heart health

If you have a sleep deprivation disorder, our goal is to remedy the underlying problem so that we can improve your heart health. After an extensive evaluation of your cardiovascular system and a review of your sleep disorder symptoms, we can come up with a treatment plan that helps with both.

For example, if sleep apnea is robbing you of sleep and causing high blood pressure, we recommend a CPAP machine or oral device to prevent your airways from collapsing.

And lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, and relaxation techniques can be very helpful when you’re dealing with a sleep disorder.

If you’d like to learn more about the impact of a sleep disorder on your heart health and how to remedy the problem, contact our office in Little Rock, Arkansas, to set up a consultation.

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