It is estimated that over 50 million Americans report difficulty sleeping. With our busy American lifestyle, where we are overcommitted in both our work schedules and personal lives, it may seem that sleep is indeed a luxury. But a good night’s sleep is increasingly recognized as an important factor in maintaining good health overall, and good cardiovascular health in particular.
Sleep disturbances and heart health
Disrupted sleep has been implicated in cardiac disease risk in multiple ways. Insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are the most common sleep disturbances and affect sleep duration and sleep quality, which in turn impact cardiometabolic health. OSA is a serious sleep disturbance in which breathing stops or becomes shallower multiple times each night because the tongue or throat tissues block the airway. It is estimated to affect somewhere from 10% to 25% of adults. Insomnia is also a common sleep disturbance, estimated to affect up to 25% of adults, but is frequently undiagnosed. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends screening for OSA in everyone with heart failure and atrial fibrillation.
Poor sleep leads to poor food choices
In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers analyzed the relationship between sleep and eating patterns — which also affect cardiovascular health — in almost 500 women. The women reported on their sleep quality, the amount of time it took to fall asleep, and whether or not they had insomnia. They also reported on their dietary habits.
The study found that those who had the worst sleep quality consumed more added sugars than women with better sleep quality. Women who took longer to fall asleep consumed more calories and more food overall. And women with poor-quality sleep were more likely to overeat and to make unhealthy food choices. Poor diet is known to increase risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Since this study is observational, we cannot draw conclusions of causality. We can surmise that the sensation of being satisfied or full is affected by sleep deprivation, likely