February, as I am sure you know by now, is American Heart Health Awareness Month. Heart disease is the number one cause of death according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and there is more and more evidence strengthening the connection between sleep deprivation and heart issues.
Not getting enough sleep can happen for many reasons. Small children, work schedules and wanting to fit everything in a short amount of time can affect how much sleep we get. Studies have shown that people who regularly sleep less than seven hours per night have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
Sleep deprivation can also happen when there is a sleep disorder present, such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome or insomnia. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common disorder that causes repeated blockage of air flow during the night. OSA has been shown to increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. OSA is also associated with a higher risk of developing heart disease, and with an increased chance of developing heart failure and heart rhythm concerns. Restless legs syndrome is associated with leg movements during sleep (called periodic limb movements of sleep or PLMS) that also cause increases in heart rate and blood pressure.