Sound Sleep Helps the Heart, Expert Says

Between 6 and 8 hours nightly is ideal

TUESDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- Getting enough sleep is important for good heart health, an expert says.

"Without enough sleep, there is an increase in blood pressure and stress hormones, lower glucose [blood sugar] tolerance and weight gain," Dr. Alan Gertler, a cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a university news release. "All of these factors can increase the risk of coronary artery disease."

The ideal amount of sleep is between six and eight hours a night, he said.

Sleep deprivation (fewer than six hours of sleep per night) "can lead to elevated C-reactive protein levels, which may be a marker of inflammation of the endothelial lining of the arteries, which can increase the risk of atherosclerosis," Gertler noted.

Sleep apnea, a common problem, is another sleep-related issue that can lead to heart trouble, he said.

The disrupted breathing that is characteristic of sleep apnea decreases the amount of oxygen in your blood, Gertler said. "As a result, sleep is interrupted through the night, and the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, cardiac arrhythmias and stroke increase," Gertler added.

People who have sleep problems should discuss the issue with their primary care doctor, he advised.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about sleep and sleep disorders.

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