Coronary Heart Disease and Sleep

The following relationships have been established linking coronary heart disease and sleep:

  • Sleep apnea is associated with heart disease. Studies have shown that between 50 and 80 percent of stroke and heart failure patients have some form of sleep disordered breathing.
  • Sleep apnea has been associated with depression.
  • Cortisol, the stress hormone, is associated with heart disease.
  • Nitric oxide levels in the body effect heart disease, stroke, blood pressure, inflammation, heart failure, hypertension, circulation, obesity, dyslipidemias (particularly hypercholesterolemia and hypertriglycereridemia), diabetes, artherosclerosis and inflammation. Sufficient sleep is important for keeping nitric oxide levels high.
  • Depression has been reported as a side effect of some medications, including some aimed at reducing cholesterol.
  • Being overweight increases your chance of coronary heart disease, and lack of sleep effects the processes that regulate weight.
  • Being overweight increases your chance of sleep apnea (and snoring). The American Sleep Foundation estimates that sleep apnea is present in about 40% of adults who snore.
  • Sleep deprivation contributes greatly to high blood pressure.
  • If you wake early in the morning and can’t get back to sleep again, figures have shown that in 80% of these cases the issue is depression or grief.

Here are some tips to help break some of the cycles and interdependencies in the above list:

  1. Exercise Daily.  This reduces the levels of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, relieves anxiety and helps with depression.  Exercise assists in the maintenance (or achievement) of a healthy weight for your height.  Walk in nature, preferably in the sunshine (especially for those effected by seasonally affected depression SAD).  And if you’re a shiftworker (and the sun is shining when you wake up) bathe in the sunlight to awaken your body to the new day – it resets your timing for the day and can improve mood.  And finally, increased blood flow improves your levels of nitric oxide
  2. Lose Weight if You’re Overweight. As little as 10 – 15 per cent weight loss can reduce or eliminate sleep-disordered breathing, and may curtail the cardiovascular risk associated with sleep-disordered breathing.
  3. Sleep Well Every Night.  The rule is 8 hours per night, and to be asleep before midnight.  If you’ve got teenage children give them a break and let them sleep in on the weekend, and during the week when they’re on school holidays – they’re not being lazy – it’s their changed body clock during this period (they even grow while they’re asleep!).
  4. Choose Supplements that help your Heart and Sleep.  Omega-3, lipid management, has been the subject of many studies and is definitely being recommended to enhance your health.  What sort of omega-3 is recommended? There have been a number of studies indicating that high ratio EPA:DHA Omega-3 is the best for treating depression.  There is other evidence that suggests that Omega-3 is beneficial to heart health.  Either way, we’re going to recommend you take Omega-3 on a daily basis.  Do some more research as to whether you’re going to take the high EPA:DHA ratio products, but if depression is an issue in your life, that’s the one we recommend.? Please note high potency Omega-3 is not the same as high ratio EPA:DHA omega-3.  You need to read the labels, and earlier posts to learn how to find the high EPA:DHA ratio omega-3s.
  5. Avoid Fried Foods.  It’s not just about keeping your weight under control.  It’s about keeping the integrity of the long chain fatty acids created with your omega-3, fish eating etc.  Fried foods, actually the trans fats, wreck your good work here, so now you have three reasons to avoid them.  To stay slim, to uplift your mood, and keep your nutritional integrity.  Grilled fish and baked potatoes, fine … ‘fish ‘n chips’ – don’t do it to yourself.
  6. Suspect you could have Sleep Apnea?  If you suspect that you could have sleep apnea, please ask your medical professional for a referral to a sleep clinic for further testing. While CPAP masks are not celebrated cosmetically the results for some people are life changing,  improving their alertness, and mood substantially after a good night’s sleep – apart from the documented benefits to heart health.
  7. Are you waking too early in the morning? It is estimated that 80% of people who wake too early and can’t get back to sleep have depression. And there’s a second factor that comes into play if you have elevated cholesterol levels. Some cholesterol lowering medications have the side-effect of depression – so report to your doctor if you have started waking early after commencing your cholesterol reducing medication.
  8. Sleep Cool rather than Hot.  So you’re asleep, right? But are you getting the beneficial deep sleep (alpha, theta and delta brainwave sleep)? Temperatures above 32 degrees C reduce your beneficial rapid eye movement sleep (REM) – so you might seem to be asleep, but not actually maximising the sleep opportunity.  Since the normal body temperature is 37 degrees C you can see why we advocate getting out from under those heavy doonas and using layers so you can regulate the temperature better – and natural fabrics please.  I’ve recently been to a stream of 5 star hotels with the most hideous ‘blankets’ on the beds (they just look like plastic actually – sensibly covered so we can’t see them!).  Sleep under cotton, woollen or alpaca blankets – and if in doubt, sleep a little cooler rather than too hot.  You’ll wake up fresh in the morning instead of groggy.  See my other posts about sleeping cool in bed. And while we’re on the topic of deep sleep, you probably have already figured out that irresponsible amounts of alcohol, and drugs (prescribed or otherwise) can interrupt and skew your normal brainwave patterns while you think you’re sleeping deeply.  Also eliminate all nasty food additives from your diet – as certain food additives are associated with restlessness, anxiety, depression, aggitation, aggression, sleep disturbances, wakefulness, irritability.  Visit Sue Dengate’s fantastic site for more information
  9. Increase your Nitric Oxide Levels. Nitric oxide (NO) the invisible odorless gas your body makes, causes the smooth muscles in the walls of your blood vessels to relax, and when they are relaxed, the blood vessels open or widen, allowing more life-supporting oxygen and other nutrients to get to your heart, brain and all of your other organs.  With enough NO the circulation in your whole body improves. Here’s the good news. You can improve your levels of nitric oxide by having more fun, including more sex and orgasm.  Other ways to improve NO levels are meditation, positive thoughts, taking pride in yourself, eating healthily, exercising, managing your weight, moving forward, and realising that you are what you believe.  To find out more about NO read today’s special post about it.
  10. Love Your Life.  Yea, it is actually about heart. (And it does relate to NO above, I’m sure.)  I’m continually coming across people who hate their job, worry about their huge mortgage, never have enough ‘me time’, have no creativity in their life, complain abour their partner, never laugh and party – who wonder why they don’t feel good, don’t sleep properly and aren’t vital!  Like, duh!  Do you have the ticker to change your life?  And yes, a strong heart is associated with courage… so take some… and make the decisions you need to make in your life to bring you into a point of strength, vitality, love, contribution and enthusiasm.  Problems do not got away, they only get worse if you don’t address them.  Take heart, and take strong action.

Getting a great night’s sleep is becoming THE thing to do to improve your health and happiness – in so many ways.

Love your life


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: