How Sleep Can Help Keep Your Heart Healthy

Alan Reisinger, Author
By A. Alan Reisinger, III, MD, FACP
May 22, 2024
A woman checking her blood pressure.

Here’s a little secret about your heart: Your ticker loves it when you sleep.

Good, consistent sleep is great for our heart. Poor sleep, notsomuch.

Sleep helps everything from our immune system to our mental health. But our heart also benefits.

Let’s start with blood pressure. When we sleep, our heart rate slows down and our blood pressure decreases. This gives our cardiovascular system a reprieve from the day’s stresses while our cells repair themselves.

Unfortunately, when we get too little sleep, our blood pressure can stay elevated. Over time, that can lead to hypertension. If you already have high blood pressure, lack of sleep can make your numbers worse.

But high blood pressure isn’t the only cardiovascular issue affected by sleep deprivation. When we sleep, our bodies produce hormones needed to control stress and metabolism and even influence our diet. Over time, poor sleep can cause swings in these hormones, which can increase risk factors for heart disease.
That’s one of the reasons poor sleep is tied to a higher risk of mental health issues, diabetes, metabolic disorder and obesity, which all negatively impact the heart.

Sleep deprivation is also associated with inflammation, which also affects our heart health. Studies have demonstrated elevated levels of inflammatory markers in people who haven’t gotten enough sleep, especially c-reactive protein. C-reactive protein is an indicator of heart disease and diabetes risk.

One recent study even found that lack of sleep can increase our risk of atherosclerosis, a condition where plaque builds up along our arterial walls. When this plaque ruptures, it can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Conditions that impact sleep — like sleep apnea — are also linked to heart disease. Sleep apnea increases risk of heart disease and can lead to worse outcomes. Obstructive sleep apnea is linked to high blood pressure, stroke and coronary artery disease.

Ironically, too much sleep is also linked to heart problems. Consistency is also important — people who have irregular sleep patterns or who sleep later have higher risks for heart disease.

That’s why it’s good to aim for seven to eight hours during the same time frame each night.

So get good consistent shuteye and give your heart a rest.

About the Author
Alan Reisinger, Author
A. Alan Reisinger, III, MD, FACP

Dr. Reisinger is MDVIP’s Associate Medical Director. He practiced for 35+ years as a board-certified internal medicine specialist with a heart for people, a focus on prevention and a desire to see primary care delivered the way it was intended. Serving as a member and subsequent chairman of MDVIP’s medical advisory board, he has helped to lead the clinical direction of the organization since 2008 and has been a passionate advocate for aggressive cardiovascular prevention in our network.

Previously, Dr. Reisinger was on the medical advisory board for Cleveland HeartLab and currently is a member of the BaleDoneen Academy, a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Society for Preventive Cardiology and an advisory board member of the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health.

Integral to his calling is his commitment to improving patient care, and he is resolute in the need to foster enhanced collaboration between the medical and dental communities. He has lectured nationally on cardiovascular disease prevention. Dr. Reisinger has embraced the mission of changing the outcome of CVD, the leading cause of death in the world… “because we can.”

View All Posts By A. Alan Reisinger, III, MD, FACP
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