Advertisement
Icon WebMD Expert Blogs

Sleep Well

with Michael Breus, PhD, ABSM

Sleep disorders include a range of problems -- from insomnia to narcolepsy -- and affect millions of Americans. Dr. Michael Breus shares information and advice on sleep disorder and insomnia treatments and causes.

Important:

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, review, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have... Expand

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, reviews, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. User-generated content areas are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD User-generated content as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Hide

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Are You a Ticking Time Bomb?

If someone said to you that your lifetime risk of a heart attack is close to 100 percent, you’d probably want to do everything you can to either prevent that fate or delay it by as long as possible. Right?

Heart disease continues to be the number one killer of Americans; 1.5 million heart attacks occur in the United States each year with 500,000 deaths. Costs related to heart attack exceed 60 billion dollars per year.

Most of us are aware of the ways in which we can help keep our hearts healthy:

But what about sleep? How does that factor in?

Turns out that sleep factors in big time. A new study shows that poor sleep may worsen heart health by increasing inflammation. Chronic inflammation has gained a lot of attention in recent years due to the associations found between this bodily process and an array of illnesses and disease. While inflammation is a normal physiological process and part of our immune system, when it runs amok it can wreak havoc on our cells and tissues. Which explains why inflammation can play a major role in heart health, as it can lead to restricted blood flow and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

This recent study found that regular bouts of insomnia and poor sleep quality may increase inflammation throughout the body, which may be further aggravated by high cholesterol, resulting in heart complications. The specifics:

  • After surveying 525 participants on their sleep habits, researchers from Emory University measured their levels of certain inflammatory hormones, including the famous C-reactive protein that’s used as a biomarker for inflammation.
  • They found that individuals who regularly got the least sleep were significantly more likely to have high levels of the hormones and consequently, inflammation.
  • In fact, adults who slept for six or fewer hours had higher levels of all three inflammatory markers that the researchers measured.
  • The researchers at Emory also noticed that men and women with poor sleep quality had higher blood pressures.

Something else that the researchers discovered to their surprise: men — not women — who experienced poor sleep quality had less flexible arteries. This condition also contributes to hypertension and puts more stress on the heart.

The reason for this could be due to certain hormones or other variables going on in women that help explain the discrepancy. This doesn’t mean women can get away with poor sleep. It just means we need to study the gender differences when it comes to health and their separate risk profiles.

Fibrinogen, one of the other markers observed in this study, forms a fibrous mesh that slows the blood flow, thus increasing blood pressure and potentially causing hypertension. This fibrous mesh quickens the time it takes for your blood to clot, which can cause a stroke or heart attack.

So it goes without saying that we all need to keep sleep on our list of priorities for keeping our hearts healthy and strong.

Bottom line: Rest up to keep your heart up and running. You may feel like a ticking time bomb as you juggle too many “To Dos” and run around like mad addressing your commitments and obligations. But that ticking time bomb can be real if you’re simultaneously throwing sleep out the window. Add more minutes to your life just by adding more quality sleep minutes to your time in bed.

It really could be as easy as that.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™
www.thesleepdoctor.com

Posted by: Michael Breus, PhD, ABSM at 7:45 am

Comments

Leave a comment

Subscribe & Stay Informed

Sleep Well

Stop tossing and turning. Get the latest diet and exercise tips, treatments and research about better sleep from WebMD.

Archives

WebMD Health News