Sleep deprivation and heart health risk

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AVOCA, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – A bad night’s sleep can make getting through the day seem almost impossible. While you can get by with an occasional night of poor sleep, a steady pattern of it could seriously harm your health.

We know sleep is critical for brain function but as Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, a recent study reveals startling findings of cardiovascular damage caused by not getting enough zzz’s.

We all want it but not enough of us get it: a good night’s sleep. “Up to 30 percent, probably more U.S. adults are sleep deprived, meaning they’re not getting enough sleep. They have too much awakening,” said Commonwealth Health Family Medicine Physician Tina George, MD from her Avoca office.

Before you say sleep is an overrated luxury consider the consequences a lack of it has on your heart. Dr. George said, “Sleep contributes significantly to healthy levels of the hormones that moderate our cardiovascular health.”

A study published this month in the online journal Nature measured what a lack of sleep does to the body — not on humans but for research purposes, mice. “Those mice did have higher accumulations of plaque in the arteries when they looked at those mice post-mortem,” said Dr. George.

Why? According to the study, disrupted sleep caused the brains in sleep-deprived mice to signal the bone marrow to boost white blood cell production. The effect damaged blood vessels and triggered a hardening of the arteries known as atherosclerosis. For you and I, it means a risk of such things as high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. 

Need more evidence to get enough sleep? Dr. George said, “Abnormal sleep patterns can disrupt our normal neurotransmitter release and our stress hormones like cortisol that most people would identify.”

The steroid hormone cortisol helps the body respond to stress and regulates everything from metabolism to your immune system. “All of those things contribute to our well-being and globally to our risk of heart disease,” said Dr. George.

The recommendation? Adults need about eight hours of sleep while teenagers should get nine or more. And don’t think you can make up for lost sleep by catching up on weekends. You need your proper rest each and every night.

It’s recommended you set a regular sleep schedule every day and stick to it. Keep your bedroom dark, cool and quiet. Also, turn off your electronic devices one hour before sleep. That’s because using those devices just before bedtime interferes with your circadian rhythm and suppresses the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin which then makes falling asleep more difficult.


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