Lack of Sleep: Increased Chance of Heart Attack?

In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds, impacting women in a major way, with 43 million diagnosed with heart disease. There are 720,000 deaths every year as a result of heart attacks. There are many risk factors for a heart attack and a new study is revealing that sleep disorders or lack of sleep for a long period of time may be a proponent. Here's what you need to know. 


Risk factors for a heart attack range from age, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, family history of heart attack, lack of exercise, obesity, stress and autoimmune conditions. But what about sleep?

A recent study we covered from South Korea, showed a strong correlation between lack of sleep and the development of diabetes. Another study showed that lack of sleep leads to more food cravings the next day, increasing risk of obesity. We know how important sleep is, but now a new study presented at EuroHeartCare 2015 showed that poor sleep links to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The study from the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences chronicled sleep habits of 657 between the ages of 25-64 for a 14-year period. They had no history of heart attack, stroke or diabetes. Over the course of the trial, 63% that had a heart attack also had a sleep disorder. The follow-up period brought the discovery that men with a sleep disorder were about twice as likely at risk for a heart attack and up to four times more likely to have a stroke. 

This study is significant because it may lead to "lack of sleep" being considered a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease, similar to smoking, lack of exercise and unhealthy eating. 

Sleep is a basic treatment of health and wellness. We spend a lot of effort exercising and eating well, which is important, but neglecting healthy sleep habits can be just as, if not, more damaging to our overall health and risk for chronic diseases. 

The National Sleep Foundation recently polled American sleep habit, and almost half claimed they deal with poor or insufficient sleep at least once per week.

Tips for Better Sleep

• Stick to a sleep schedule. 

No matter what day it is, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Going to bed around the same time every night can help your body recognize when it is time for sleep. If you can’t get to sleep right away, get out of bed and do something to relax your mind until you’re tired enough to go back to bed and fall asleep. Avoid sedatives, such as sleeping pills - their effects are not permanent and can actually hurt you in the long run. 

• Control what you eat and drink before bed. 

Do not go to bed hungry or when your stomach feels too full. Eat dinner a couple of hours before going to be. Be careful not to drink too much of anything before bed so that you’re not waking up often in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Coffee and caffeine should always be avoided a few hours prior to bed. Alcohol may make you feel more tired, but actually dehydrates you and causes you to wake up at random hours of the night. 

• Have a relaxing bedtime routine. 

During the hour before bedtime, do similar relaxing activities each night to ease your mind and prepare it for sleep. Reading a book or taking a warm bath can help put you in a mental state of relaxation. Avoid watching television or staring at your computer or iPhone before bedtime. 

• Keep your room dark.

Keep the lights in your bedroom dim, make sure you have curtains to block out excessive sunlight at peak hours of the morning, or invest in a sleeping mask if necessary. Sleeping in dark environments allows our bodies to produce more melatonin, an important hormone for proper sleep. 

• Check your room temperature. 

Being too hot or too cold can disrupt a good night's sleep. The best temperature for a good night’s sleep is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. 

• Exercise. 

Exercise promotes better sleep as it helps you fall asleep faster and puts your body into a deeper sleep. People who are physically fit and healthy are much less likely to experience problems sleeping.However, avoid exercising right before bedtime. It takes your body a few hours to return to a resting state. 

• Keep your stress level low. 

Too much stress or worry keeps our minds running all day and all night, often causing us to stay up all night since our brains cannot settle down. Prioritize your life; get organized, have a daily schedule, practice good time management, and always make time for fun activities that you enjoy. 

• Think twice about napping. 

Taking naps after work or later in the day can cause you to stay up later at night, when it’s actually time for bed. Try to avoid naps eight hours before bedtime. If a nap is imperative, aim for twenty minutes or less, and do as early as possible. If you feel like napping later in the day, do an activity to wake yourself up like going for a run or even drinking some ice cold water.