For a Healthier Heart, Get Some Sleep

Understand why sufficient, restful sleep is important for your heart health.

Getting enough sleep plays a large role in heart health and is frequently overlooked and under prioritized; studies show that 50 to 70 million American adults are living with a sleeping disorder or not getting regular sleep.1

Various conditions can make it difficult to get the recommended six to eight hours of sleep. From insomnia and sleep apnea to mental health factors and lifestyle demands, there are barriers that prevent many people from a full night’s rest. Ideally, adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night. However, only 1 in 3 Americans reports getting that amount.2

How sleep impacts heart health

In addition to feeling lethargic or irritable, habitual lack of restful sleep is strongly correlated with various conditions that impact heart health:

  • Weight gain
    Lack of restful sleep can cause a slower metabolism and is also correlated with poor diet. Studies show a connection between increased food intake and poor sleep.3
  • Diabetes
    Some studies show that sleep helps your body regulate your blood sugar. When that important regulation can’t take place, it may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • High blood pressure
    Sleep is an important time of rest when your blood pressure can decrease for a period of time. Without that rest, your blood pressure remains higher for longer, adding strain to the heart and contributing to risk of heart disease and stroke.2
  • Inflammation
    Even a few hours of sleep deprivation can send signals through your body that cause your immune system to turn against healthy cells. This process leads to inflammation in the body and can cause heart disease as well as autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.4
  • Heart disease and arrhythmias
    Common sleeping disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome are associated with heart issues like arrhythmias, heart failure, and heart disease.1 If you have snoring or excessive sleepiness during the day, check with your doctor as to whether you should be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea, as treatment may reduce your risk for heart disease and arrhythmias.

Working toward better sleep

If you struggle to get a full night of sleep consistently, consider making these small changes to get your rest back on track:

  • Establish a routine
    Create a sleep schedule to stick to each day, including the weekends. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time. This routine might also include calming activities like drinking herbal tea, reading, or meditating before bedtime. Avoiding screens in the hours leading up to sleep can also lead to better rest.
  • Create a restful environment
    Adjust the temperature and lighting in your room, and strive for quiet. Make the room darker with curtains, or use earplugs if your surroundings are noisy.
  • Add exercise
    Staying active during the day may make falling asleep easier, so adding physical activity to your daytime routine can help make your nighttime routine smoother and more restful.
  • Cut back on caffeine and alcohol
    In the few hours leading up to sleep, avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugary foods. These can all contribute to restlessness and make it difficult to get a proper night of sleep.1
  • Soak up the sun
    During the day, particularly in the morning, get plenty of natural light. As bedtime approaches and the sun goes down, avoid artificial light as much as possible. If you need to look at a screen, use dark mode or blue light filters.2

If you continue to experience trouble sleeping or feel concerned about your heart health, talk with your doctor about the best next steps.