Can poor sleep hurt your heart?

Harmeet Gill, MD, is a board certified sleep disorders specialist. He is the medical director of Banner Baywood Sleep Disorders Center in Mesa. His office can be reached at (480) 962-1650.

Question: I have heard that poor sleep habits, either sleeping too much or too little, can impact heart health. Is this true?

Answer: Sleeping fewer than four hours or more than nine hours can increase the chances of death from coronary artery disease (CAD), cancer and stroke. The average adult should sleep between 7 – 8 hours a night. Getting too much sleep can be a problem. Excessive sleep may result in exhaustion and irritability because long sleepers tend to spend less time in deep sleep compared to short sleepers.

On the other hand, if you don’t get enough sleep you could suffer from decreased performance, attention, concentration and increased reaction time. Sleep deprivation is also the most common cause of excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). One-third of young adults have EDS secondary to chronic partial sleep deprivation. Poor sleep habits are associated with heart arrhythmias, increased chances of CAD and hypertension.

Here are some ways you can achieve better sleep habits:

  • Maintain a consistent bed time and wake time, even on weekends.
  • Maintain a quiet and comfortable bedroom environment. Avoid computer work, TV or other stimulating activity in the bedroom. The bedroom should only be for intimacy and sleep.
  • Avoid exercising within three hours of bed time.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and heavy meals close to bedtime.

It’s important to note that heart conditions can cause poor sleep. Patients with congestive heart failure may suffer from a form of sleep apnea called central sleep apnea, and people with CAD may have their sleep disrupted by angina.

If you are having sleep issues, you should make an appointment with a sleep specialist.