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The Surprising Link Between Sleep and Heart Attacks

new research study about sleep, heart attack, stroke, vascular disease

Remember you were younger and your mom would nag, telling you that it was important to get enough sleep? Well, she was nagging for a good reason. New research now suggests that sleep could help prevent serious health conditions such as heart attack, stroke or vascular disease. But what about getting your Zzz’s potentially decreases your risk of these life-threatening conditions?

If you fall into the category of having high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes, the Journal of the American Heart Association’s new study found that getting less than six hours of sleep per night could raise your risk of heart attack, stroke, or vascular disease.

The Connection

Their study analyzed and tracked 1,654 adults between the ages of 20 and 74, who were divided into three groups: those who had high blood pressure also known as hypertension, those who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, those who experienced a recent stroke or heart attack, and those without any the previous conditions. Patients were studied and tracked for seven years starting in 1991 and tracked through 2016. During that time period, the researchers found that there were 512 deaths, in which a third of those people had suffered from a stroke or vascular disease.

The study stated that the people in these categories who slept less than six hours per night, people with high blood pressure or diabetes had a higher mortality rate and people with these conditions who slept more than six hours had a lower mortality rate. They also found that sleeping less than six hours could increase inflammation which could make conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes more severe.

Unlike those with risk factors for cardiovascular disease, however, otherwise healthy short sleepers didn’t appear to have an increased risk of developing and dying from cancer, heart disease or a stroke. As Fernandez-Mendoza notes, “These people may just be naturally short sleepers.”

What Do Other Studies Say?

In addition to Journal of American Heart Association’s study, another study conducted in the U.K. study published last month, examined the sleep habits of over 400,000 people between the ages of 40 and 69. The researchers found that patients who slept less than six hours a night, had an increased risk of experiencing a heart attack by almost 20 percent. They then compared this data to those who slept between six and nine hours and found that they had a significantly lower risk of heart attack.

It’s important to remember that poor sleep quality also plays a major role in the risk of heart attack, stroke, and vascular disease. Even if you’re getting the recommended six hours of sleep per night, you may not be getting successful REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It’s important to follow the below tips to help improve sleep quality and length.

How Can I Improve My Sleep Quality?

  • Stick to a schedule – Regulating your body’s clock by sticking to a fairly strict sleep schedule can help your body fall asleep and wake up at optimal times.
  • Avoid taking naps too late – If you’re taking naps too late during the day, it may make going to sleep at night difficult. This can cause you to stay up late and get off of your sleep schedule.
  • Reduce room temperature – Turning down the heat at night while you sleep can help improve overall sleep quality. The suggested bedroom temperature according to the National Sleep Foundation is 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Your body prepares to sleep by decreasing its temperature; therefore, lowering the overall temperature can help assist in this process.
  • Turn off the light – Before you go to sleep, turn off all lights. Exposure to light while you’re sleeping, even small amounts, can disrupt your sleep and wake cycle.
  • Stretch or meditate – Stretching and meditating before you go to sleep can help wind your body down and promote a more restful sleep.
  • Avoid that fourth meal – Eating late at night can block the production of adenosine, a chemical that naturally makes us feel tired and ready to go to sleep. If foods are consumed too close to bedtime, this habit may contribute to chronic insomnia.

How to Reduce My Risk Further

Even if you fall into the category of sleeping more than six hours per night, you could still be at risk of a heart attack, stroke, or vascular disease. Additional influencing factors include:

  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Family history of vascular disease
  • Diet rich in saturated fats or sodium
  • Plaque buildup within the arteries
  • Current or former smoker

The above lifestyle and genetic factors can increase your risk of developing a condition known as Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) which can lead to stroke, heart attack, or amputation if left untreated. PAD occurs when plaque buildup within the arteries blocks blood flow either partially or fully. Early diagnosis and treatment of PAD can help reduce your risk, as well as increase independency and mobility.

Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improving your sleep quality, living an active life, quitting or avoiding smoking, becoming aware of your family medical history, managing your weight, and maintaining a healthy diet can all help lower your risk of potential life-threatening conditions.

Treatment for Peripheral Artery Disease

If you’re interested in learning more about Peripheral Artery Disease and want to learn how treatment can reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, or amputation, schedule an appointment online or give us a call at 888.773.2193.


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