Heading to bed early may make for an easier morning, but it turns out that it may also help protect your heart.

Adil Karamali, MD, FACC, a cardiologist with ProMedica Physicians, says lack of sleep does not directly cause heart complications such as cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, it does increase your risk factors.


Cardiovascular disease, also known as heart disease, is a class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels. The most common types include coronary artery disease, cardiac arrest, and stroke.

“Chronic short sleep produces hormones and chemicals in the body that increase the risk of heart disease, the most important one being C-reactive protein,” Dr. Karamali explains. “This is an inflammatory marker that is elevated in patients with coronary artery disease and elevated values are a risk factor for CVD.”

The MORGEN study, recently published in SLEEP, a joint publication of the Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, followed 20,432 men and women aged 20-65 with no history of CVD over a 10 to 15 year period. Researchers studied sleep duration and sleep quality in relation to CVD. Investigators found that patients who slept less than seven hours (which was defined as sufficient sleep) had a 63 percent higher risk of CVD, especially if they awoke feeling unrested. To the contrary, those who slept more than nine hours had a 38 percent increased risk of CVD.

Likewise, a 2008 study from the University of Chicago found a link between insufficient sleep and increased coronary artery calcium, which can lead to coronary artery disease.

“The MORGEN study found that seven hours was the average sleep duration and this is what people should strive for every night,” Dr. Karamali says. “Long-term issues from sleep deprivation can be related to eventual heart complications that can be irreversible.”

When you sleep, your blood pressure and your heart rate go down, allowing your heart to rest and prepare energy for your busy day ahead. When you stay awake for long periods of time, your heart is working overtime.

“If patients are having a difficult time falling asleep, frequent awakenings throughout the night, or daytime fatigue, they should consult with their physician to get to the root of the problem before any long-term damage occurs,” advises Dr. Karamali.

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