Among the heart-healthy habits that could prevent risk of a heart health, a good night’s sleep is perhaps the best one. An ultimate tonic to your heart, a restful sleep can offer an array of benefits for your heart while a broken, interrupted sleep can do the opposite – raise risk of heart attack and many other chronic diseases. Sleep has many stages and the during the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep stage, heart rate slows, blood pressure drops, and breathing stabilizes. These changes reduce stress on the heart and allows it to recover from stress that occurs during waking hours. (Also read: Heart health tips: Lifestyle changes to prevent heart attacks)

People who have insomnia or suffer from any other sleep disorder may not be able to spend much time in this non-rapid eye movement stage and the essential repair and rejuvenation work remains incomplete due to which over a period of time, a person with sleep problems may be more susceptible to developing heart diseases than those who are good sleepers.

According to Sleep Foundation, during normal, healthy sleep, blood pressure drops by around 10-20% which is called nocturnal dipping, and this plays a huge role in cardiovascular health. When a person is not able to sleep properly, this nocturnal dipping is absent which means a person’s blood pressure doesn’t go down at night. Studies have found that elevated night-time blood pressure is tied to overall hypertension – which is a risk factor for heart diseases.

“Proper sleep for 6 to 8 hours every day is vital for a healthy life and heart. Lack of sleep can have a plethora of bad effects on the body including on the heart. Sleep deprivation causes increased sympathetic nervous system activity, vasoconstriction and increased heart rate, all of which are detrimental to the heart health,” says Dr Pavan Kumar P Rasalkar, Consultant Interventional Cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Nagarbhavi, Bangalore.

“Lack of sleep can affect heart in many ways – it can lead to high blood pressure which itself is a risk factor for heart disease and heart attacks. It leads to more chances of cholesterol deposition in the arteries and also leads to block disruption in the coronary arteries that increases the risk of heart attack and high incidences of heart failure. These patients have an increased chance of heart failure by almost 20-30%. Lack of sleep also leads to obesity and high cholesterol levels which causes heart diseases. During the night-time, the blood pressure is high, and we call it nocturnal hypertension, which leads to very high incidence of heart attacks. Due to lack of sleep, there is a high incidence of stroke, paralysis and diabetes. All these ways the lack of sleep can lead to high incidences of heart disease, says Dr Gajinder Goyal, Director – department of Cardiology, Marengo QRG Hospital, Faridabad.

Dr Rasalkar says lack of sleep can affect heart in following 5 ways:

1. Increases the chances of heart attack.

2. Increases the chances of heart failure.

3. Increases the chances of having other risk factors for heart diseases like high blood pressure, high sugar and high cholesterol.

4. Worsens pre-existing cardiac conditions.

5. Leads to unhealthy eating habits, sedentary lifestyle and weight gain, which in turn adversely affect the heart.

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