APR 14, 2022 9:00 AM PDT

Sleep and Heart Health

WRITTEN BY: Savannah Logan

Beyond healthy diet and exercise patterns, sleep has been increasingly recognized as a key to improving and maintaining heart health. Studies have shown that low-quality sleep and short sleep duration are associated with higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol, more plaque buildup in arteries, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, mental health issues, and a greater risk of cardiovascular events.

The CDC recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, but about one third of Americans report that they consistently get less than 7 hours per night. These individuals are also more likely to have health problems like asthma, depression, and heart disease. Mental health appears to be closely tied sleep duration and quality — psychological disorders increase the risk of developing sleep disorders, and sleep issues increase the risk of developing psychological disorders. Interestingly, lack of sleep is also linked to weight gain and obesity, particularly among children and adolescents. This may be because sleep has an impact on the part of the brain that controls hunger and satiety. Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease that has become increasingly prevalent in America.

Is it possible to get too much sleep? Oversleeping is associated with a wide variety of health conditions, but the causation is unclear — it is likely that being sick leads to sleeping more, and not that sleeping more causes illness. Experts recommend that adults get 7–9 hours of sleep per night; consistently needing more than 9 hours of sleep to feel rested might mean that you either have an underlying health condition or that you are not getting restful sleep at night. Factors that may impact sleep quality include sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, pain, overconsumption of caffeine, and taking certain medications.

To get high-quality sleep, experts recommend going to bed and waking up at consistent times; sleeping in a dark, cool room; avoiding screens at night; avoiding caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime; and getting exercise during the day.

Sources: American Heart Association, CDC, AHA, Johns Hopkins Medicine

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Savannah (she/her) is a scientific writer specializing in cardiology at Labroots. Her background is in medical writing with significant experience in obesity, oncology, and infectious diseases. She has conducted research in microbial biophysics, optics, and education. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.
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