Eyecare Tips

Getting Enough Sleep Can Reduce The Risk Of Heart Disease

April 23, 2017

February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives each year. One of the precautionary measures people can take to prevent heart disease is to get a proper amount of nightly sleep.

According to David A. Kristo, MD, medical director of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Sleep Disorders Center in Washington, D.C., and a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep related breathing disorder that causes one's body to stop breathing during sleep, is a precursor to heart disease.

"During American Heart Month, it is important to remember the implications of sleep on cardiovascular health. Specifically, OSA is considered a factor in causing or being associated with high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, and congestive heart failure," says Dr. Kristo. "Treatment of OSA may improve control of blood pressure and improve nocturnal oxygen levels, which helps in minimizing risks of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. Additionally, OSA may cause abnormal heart rhythms which would not be triggered at night with successful treatment of OSA."

A number of studies have implicated OSA in the development of heart disease:

- A lack of sleep leads to obesity, which increases the likelihood of developing OSA. An increased body mass index negatively influences cardiopulmonary capacity in persons with OSA.

- OSA may cause sleep restriction, which has a negative effect on cardiac activity.

- Concentration of plasma cysteine, considered a risk factor for coronary heart disease, increases with sleep apnea severity.

- Persons with congestive heart failure and OSA commonly report habitual snoring.

- Having OSA influences both chronotropic and pressoric responses during the exercise test in patients. OSA subjects are unable to increase their heart rate in the same proportion as those without OSA did.

- Intermittent hypoxemia may be an important determinant of sleep disordered breathing-related cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, studies published in recent issues of the journal SLEEP link inadequate sleep to heart disease. According to research, daytime sleepiness brought on by OSA may put one more at risk for cardiovascular problems. Further, people with sleep duration above or below the recommended seven-to-eight hours per night face an increased risk of hypertension, a major predictor for heart disease.

These studies are evidence that sleep plays an important role in helping people live longer and healthier lives, adds Dr. Kristo.

Treating OSA patients with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) may reduce their risk of dying from heart disease. CPAP is the standard of care for treating moderate to severe cases of OSA. CPAP provides a steady stream of pressurized air to patients through a mask that they wear during sleep. This airflow keeps the airway open, preventing the pauses in breathing that characterize OSA and restoring normal oxygen levels.

CPAP Central, a Web site created by the AASM, provides the public with comprehensive, accurate and reliable information about CPAP, the most common and effective treatment for OSA. CPAP Central includes expanded information about OSA and CPAP, including how OSA is diagnosed; the function of CPAP; the benefits of CPAP and an overview of what to expect when beginning CPAP; the position of experts on CPAP; and tools for success. CPAP Central also features an interactive slide set that educates the public about the warning signs of OSA.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers the following tips on how to get a good night's sleep:

- Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
- Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.
- Get a full night's sleep every night.
- Avoid foods or drinks that contain caffeine, as well as any medicine that has a stimulant, prior to bedtime.
- Do not go to bed hungry, but don't eat a big meal before bedtime either.
- Avoid any rigorous exercise within six hours of your bedtime.
- Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool.
- Get up at the same time every morning.

Those who believe they have OSA, or another sleep disorder, should consult with their primary care physician or a sleep specialist.

More information about OSA is available from the AASM here.

SleepEducation, a patient education Web site created by the AASM, provides information about various sleep disorders, the forms of treatment available, recent news on the topic of sleep, sleep studies that have been conducted and a listing of sleep facilities.

AASM is a professional membership organization dedicated to the advancement of sleep medicine and sleep-related .

American Academy of Sleep Medicine