The heart is the engine of our body and ensures that we are healthy and productive every day. When we sleep, our cardiovascular system also relaxes. But what happens to our heart when we sleep too little or poorly? You can find out here how sleep disorders damage the heart and what importance good sleep really has for heart health.
Table of Contents
- Our heart & sleep
- This is how sleep disorders damage the heart
- Sleep better with and for a healthy heart
1. Our heart & sleep
The heart is the engine of our body and fundamental to our vital functions. The heart is a muscle about the size of a fist and, together with the blood vessels, forms the vital cardiovascular system. Its central task is to regulate blood circulation and up to 10.000 liters of blood to pump through the blood vessels to all areas of our body. In order to function at all, our organs, muscles and body cells primarily need oxygen. The heart drives blood flow through constant contraction, i.e. muscle tension and relaxation, and thus controls the important supply, removal or further transport of oxygen and other nutrients in all areas of the body.
This central task makes a strong heart a basic requirement for our health and performance. Diseases of the cardiovascular system, on the other hand, represent an enormous health risk and are the most common cause of death in Germany.
Just like the brain, the heart never sleeps. When at rest and with low physical activity, it beats an average of 60 to 80 times per minute (resting heart rate). At night, when we lie quietly in bed and sleep, our physical activity drops to a minimum and our brain is also put under significantly less stress than during the day. This also reduces cardiac activity, the heart rate drops again by around 10 beats per minute during sleep and blood pressure drops.
In this way, the constantly active heart muscle can recover from the stress of the day and recharge its energy stores. Sufficient sleep is also good for the heart. However, what happens to our heart if, on the contrary, we don't sleep enough or the nocturnal rest period is disturbed?
2. This is how sleep disorders damage the heart
Around a third of all adults regularly suffer from difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Normal heart function fundamentally contributes to ensuring that all areas of the body are adequately supplied with oxygen and urgently needed nutrients, even during sleep, and that we can sleep well and restfully. At the same time, the heart also recovers during sleep. Sleep disorders and particularly persistent lack of sleep can therefore also harm heart health and increase the risk of diseases of the cardiovascular system.
The duration of sleep: lack of sleep / too much sleep
The optimal sleep duration is usually between seven and eight hours per night, but one in two Germans now regularly sleeps less than six hours per day. Even two nights with too little sleep can noticeably affect our health, but chronic sleepl in particular can lead to overstressing of the cardiovascular system and cause immense damage to the heart. Scientific studies show that the risk of a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular diseases more than doubles in people who regularly sleep less than five hours!
Too little sleep means stress for the organism, resulting in an increased release of stress hormones (e.g. b cortisol or adrenaline) and high nerve activity, causing the heart to beat faster and blood pressure to rise. If our blood pressure is too high, the heart has to pump against greater resistance in the blood vessels. Due to the increased exertion and increased pressure, the heart muscle and blood vessels lose elasticity, the arteries narrow, which further reduces the performance of our heart and makes it more difficult for nutrients to be transported in the blood flow.
But not only too little sleep, but also too much sleep is said to have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system, according to studies. If you sleep more than nine hours a day, the risk of illness is 33% higher than for people who sleep between six and eight hours. We have explained in this article what exactly too much sleep means for the body and the psyche. The right amount of sleep makes a decisive contribution to good heart function.
The quality of sleep: frequent awakenings / pauses in breathing
Numerous reasons can cause us to wake up in the night or awaken and be jolted out of sleep. The nervous system is then activated, stress hormones are released and the body is put into a state of stress, with the heart rate and blood pressure suddenly increasing.
Nighttime breathing problems in particular damage the heart, e.g. b Stopping breathing due to so-called respiratory apnea, but also the more common snoring. Breathing disorders hinder the supply of oxygen to the brain and organs during sleep, putting the body on alert. Adrenaline is released, the person affected is woken up and the cardiovascular system is suddenly activated in a harmful way.
3. Sleep better with and for a healthy heart
A healthy, strong heart and restful sleep ultimately depend on each other. Good heart function makes us efficient and ensures that our metabolism, hormone production and vital organ functions run smoothly and that a regulated blood flow can supply all areas of the body with oxygen and other important nutrients. The healthy blood circulation enables a natural sleep-wake rhythm and makes a decisive contribution to the smooth functioning of the sleep and recovery processes at night.
We all know that sufficient, restful sleep is of great importance for almost all of our bodily functions. But our “engine”, the urgently needed heart, in particular quickly suffers from the stress and the consequences of disturbed sleep. With an active everyday life and correct sleep hygiene you not only make it easier to fall asleep or stay asleep - you ensure a strong heart, promote your health and create optimal conditions for full performance in everyday life.
The heart controls blood flow and, together with the blood vessels, forms the life-sustaining cardiovascular system
Sleep disorders, lack of sleep and frequent awakenings can harm heart health
Lack of sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks or strokes by more than 50%
If you sleep too much, the risk of illness is 33% higher than if you sleep a healthy amount (6 - 8 hours per night)
Best regards and see you soon!