How important is good sleep to my patient’s heart health?
For some time, we have known that insufficient sleep increases blood pressure, and, therefore, the risk of heart-related diseases. A recent study from Columbia University assessed whether or not less serious sleep issues could cause measurable cardiovascular effects. An estimated one third of people in the United States do not get enough sleep. And, women seem to be affected more often than men.
There are several reasons why sleep problems are more common in women. For instance, women are more likely to be the primary caregiver for children and elderly relatives, and they also experience shifts in hormones both monthly and across their lifespan. For this reason, the scientists focused their study on women. Additionally, prior work has shown that sleep deprivation and milder sleep problems may have a disproportionate effect on cardiovascular health in women.
Columbia University sleep study results
The study included 323 healthy female participants age 20-79. They tested for minor problems, such as poor sleep quality, difficulty falling asleep and insomnia. Participants were asked to use a wristwatch-like device to monitor their sleep. The results revealed women who displayed minor sleep problems — even those who slept for seven-nine hours each night — were more likely to have elevated blood pressure.
Additional highlights from the findings include:
- Systolic blood pressure was associated directly with poor sleep quality, and diastolic blood pressure was of borderline significance with obstructive sleep apnea risk after adjusting for confounders.
- Insomnia and longer sleep onset latency were also associated with endothelial nuclear factor kappa B activation.
The investigators conclude their findings provide direct evidence that common but frequently neglected sleep disturbances such as poor sleep quality and insomnia are associated with increased blood pressure and vascular inflammation even if the person is getting enough hours of sleep.
Sleep is an important health factor to assess
When evaluating a patient’s health, the quality of sleep your patient is getting can be an important factor. In addition to asking patients about sleep quality and duration, educating patients on the importance of sleep to overall health and especially heart health can help prevent future health issues. If you have concerns about your patient’s sleep quality, you can make a referral to the Bryan Center for Sleep Medicine for an evaluation. You can reach the Bryan Sleep Center at 402-481-9646.
Contact Us for More Information
For more information on this topic, other questions related to cardiac care or to refer a patient, please contact Bryan Heart at 402-483-3333.