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Why might sleep play a role in cardiovascular disease?

Sleep may play a role in cardiovascular disease in two ways. First, sleep is a lifestyle factor. People with good sleeping habits are less stressed and more attuned with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Getting adequate sleep can reduce stressors on the heart. However, patients who snore a lot or stop breathing in the middle of the night because of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may be at risk for hypertension and heart disease, especially atrial fibrillation.

Inadequate sleep is not just an annoying fact of life. Studies have shown it may raise your risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, the effect of poor sleep on cardiovascular disease is a two-way street. Inadequate sleep appears to contribute to cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular disease may disturb your sleep. This could become an exhausting, vicious cycle if you ignore your sleep problems.

Poor sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (clogging or hardening of the arteries), heart failure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and obesity. Poor sleep appears to increase substances in your body, such as c-reactive protein, that indicate inflammation is a problem. So, inflammation, which is how the body responds to injury, infection or disease, may be part of the reason poor sleep affects your cardiovascular system. Poor sleep also causes the body to produce more stress hormones, which may contribute to cardiovascular disease.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.