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Can poor sleep harm my heart? (12/08/10)

December 8, 2010


Prevention Before Cure

Metabolic syndrome is something you want to avoid.  Too few of us do. Involving high blood pressure, high blood lipids, and the the width of your waistline, metabolic syndrome operates as a powerful combined risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

It’s been known for quite a while that short sleep can lead to coronary artery disease, especially going down below six hours average a night.  Weight gain also occurs with short sleep.  But what about insomnia?  Snoring?  Can they provoke metabolic syndrome?

More than one likes to know.


Snoring Your Way to Metabolic Syndrome


The University of Pittsburgh has one of the world’s largest sleep laboratories, and they use it well.  Recently Wendy Troxel and many of the sleep research group at the university studied 812 people in the community, two thirds  women, to see if they could predict over 3 years who developed metabolic syndrome.

Who got it?  People who snored. Plus those who had trouble falling asleep and experienced unrefreshing sleep.

Snoring is not normal.  The noise of snoring means something is blocking your airway.  It’s been known for a long time prolonged snoring over many years can lead to sleep apnea, where you stop breathing during sleep.  Sleep apnea itself leads to systemic inflammation.

Now it seems that snoring by itself can incite metabolic syndrome.  Is snoring alone also causing the systemic inflammation that is now associated with so many diseases, like heart disease, stroke, and cancer?  The researchers seem to think so.

The answer is probably far more complicated. If you habitually snore chances are high you’ve got added tissue in places you shouldn’t. Actions that commonly cause snoring, like drinking at night, are themselves pro-inflammatory.  Perhaps snoring is one way the body tells you that something  is fundamentally wrong- as can happen for example with a cold.

Difficulty falling asleep and not feeling rested are different kinds of risk factors.  Many people experience difficulty falling asleep from stress alone.  With time, difficulty falling asleep often becomes a prelude to depression, though as with snoring’s progression to sleep apnea, the progression may prove very slow.


What It Means for You


Rest is regeneration.  Trouble falling asleep and snoring through the night both declare that normal restoration is not occurring.  As these problems then continue, they can help lead to the changes that create metabolic syndrome – moving up the ladder to higher disease risk.

You don’t want that risk to happen at all, let alone increase.  Simple measures like developing a sleep ritual can help people sleep.  Overall fitness helps  people sleep.  Moving after meals can control weight and aid people’s people sleep.

There are many different risk factors that can set one up for illness, but often these factors take a long time  to impact.  To prevent that, you take action first.

You do simple, effective things.  You walk when you can.  You eat food your great-grandmother would recognize as food.  You rest before sleep.

Genetics plays its part, but many of the most lethal diseases can be prevented by personal effort. You help your body rebuild by using your body as it’s built.  And when rest is disrupted, as in poor sleep or snoring, you want to get it back on track.

Your first health policy should be yourself.  Simple, very  ordinary activities like walking after meals can prevent much mayhem later.

And you’ll feel better – and look better, too.


Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

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