Sleep is now one of the risk factors for heart disease and heart attacks

By Dr Ankur Phatarpekar

One of the most important cornerstones of a healthy life is getting a good night’s sleep. Even if you eat healthy, exercise frequently, and participate in activities that improve your mental health, all will inevitably fail if you don’t get enough sleep. In fact, even if you sleep 8-9 hours a day, you may not feel completely rested.

The concept of getting up early in the morning at 5 a.m. to perform at your best. It surely makes you more organized but what about the price to pay, which is a lack of restful sleep. Sleep is an essential part of life; it’s like a battery recharge to maintain proper homeostasis. The new American Heart Disease (AHA) advisory adds that lack of adequate sleep is one of the risk factors for cardiovascular events. AHA calls it the 8 simple life. To give you a brief history AHA published an advisory in 2010 promoting 7 health factors and behaviors to promote cardiovascular health. They added 1 more to that, making it 8.

Lack of sleep has been independently shown to increase the risk of heart disease beyond traditional risk factors like cholesterol and diabetes. The quality of sleep plays a very important role in maintaining overall health. An estimated 17.9 million people died from cardiovascular disease in 2019, representing 32% of all deaths worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, 85% of these deaths were due to heart attacks and strokes.

Your heart health could be improved if you sleep the appropriate number of hours for your age group. But it can’t do much if you don’t get enough rest. The number of times a person wakes during the night, whether they have a rapid heartbeat or difficulty breathing, and whether they have sleep apnea can all affect the quality of their sleep. Moreover, the relationship between sleep duration and quality is not necessarily linear.

If you delve into a lot of data from sleep studies, it’s not always true that longer periods of sleep are better than shorter ones. People who can sleep soundly can relax their body and enjoy their sleep. They are reliable overall indicators of how your body is regenerating and resting. To add to the above, there is now a range of software on wearable medical devices that can guide us when it comes to sleep quality.

Here are steps you can take to improve your sleep quality if you wake up frequently at night and feel exhausted in the morning:
Sleep in a completely dark and quiet room
Set a regular time for sleeping and waking up
Be sure to exercise or engage in any other type of physical activity during the day. Also, be sure to expose yourself to the sun. This encourages the release of serotonin in our brain, which in turn promotes the release of melatonin at night.
As many naps during the day can interfere with our ability to sleep at night, avoid them.

It’s time to see a sleep specialist if you have symptoms such as daytime fatigue even after 7-8 hours of sleep, morning headaches, or lack of productivity.
This study and advice from the AHA is long overdue and relevant given the erratic work schedules of young people. So, do not forget to prevent heart disease – “sleep well and sleep well”.

(The author is an Interventional Cardiologist and Structural Heart Specialist at Symbiosis Hospital, Mumbai. The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of