One in three U.S. adults does not get enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The effects of sleep deprivation are more than its symptoms: daytime sleepiness; lack of motivation; memory or concentration issues; mood changes; lack of sexual interest; and poor decision making.
“Sleep deprivation can negatively affect the heart by increasing risks for hypertension, cardiovascular and coronary heart disease,” said Mohamed S. Soliman, MD, FCCP, a board-certified physician at Lexington Sleep Solutions and Carolina Pulmonary, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice.
While the amount of sleep adults need can vary, physicians recommend seven to nine hours per night for people between 18 and 64 years old. Lack of sleep and not sleeping well can affect job performance, interactions with family and overall health.
“Sleep allows our brain to rest and process information, and it gives our organs and cells time to heal and repair themselves,” said Dr. Soliman.
Lack of sleep is only one of the conditions affecting cardiovascular health. Insomnia and sleep apnea are the most common sleep disorders.
Insomnia occurs when someone has difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights a week for at least three months. Sleep apnea is diagnosed as five or more pauses in breathing per hour of sleep. Pauses can last seconds or minutes.
“Untreated obstructive sleep apnea strains the heart because it has to beat harder and faster to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the blood.”
For those who think they suffer from insomnia or sleep apnea, they should talk with their physician about their sleep quality or lack of sleep. They may need to be evaluated at an accredited sleep center or complete an at-home sleep test.
For a Good Night’s Sleep
- Be exposed to natural light during the day.
- Establish a regular bedtime routine.
- Avoid electronic devices or TV at bedtime.
- Make time for routine aerobic exercise, such as walking.
- Avoid or limit daytime naps.
- Avoid stimulants or caffeine close to bedtime.
- Avoid eating late, especially spicy, fried or fatty foods, and foods that disrupt sleep.