7/06/16

Get those ZZZs: Your heart will thank you

We all know getting a bad night's sleep hurts our stamina, concentration and general mood. But now a study suggests people with insomnia and shift workers with inconsistent sleep patterns have a higher risk for heart disease.

"Our results suggest shift workers, who are chronically exposed to circadian misalignment, might not fully benefit from the restorative cardiovascular effects of nighttime sleep following a shift-work rotation," said Daniela Grimaldi, MD, PhD, lead author and a research assistant professor at Northwestern University who spoke to CBS News.

Malec Mokraoui, MD, (pictured) medical director at Carle Heart and Vascular Institute, definitely sees the link between poor sleep and heart problems.

"Most of the time I deal with sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and insomnia. Those conditions can cause high blood pressure,” he said.

“We screen people for sleep apnea when we can't control blood pressure, even with several drugs. It is interesting to note, once we treat sleep apnea with a mask at night, the blood pressure and daytime sleepiness improve."

Dr. Mokraoui warned that sleep problems can contribute to heart attack, heart failure, stroke and arrhythmia.

So, how do people working third shift or people with insomnia get a good night's sleep?

Charles Davies, MD, PhD, (pictured) sleep specialist and neurologist at Carle Regional Sleep Disorders Center, suggested a sleep aid for people with serious insomnia.

"Melatonin is available over the counter. It's good to start with three milligrams.  This can be increased by 2-3 milligrams every few days as needed up to 10-12 milligrams.  It is important to avoid driving until the reaction to each dose is known," Dr. Davies said.

It’s also important to build good sleep habits.

"People should reserve the bed for sleep. Be sure your bedroom is dark and quiet with no distractions. Don't read, text or watch TV in bed.  When you do that, you're training your brain to be awake in bed, and it will be harder to fall asleep," Davies said.

The study encourages people working night shifts and people with insomnia to get lots of exercise and eat healthy to improve their overall quality of life.

Mokraoui encourages people to take action.

"If people have trouble sleeping, they must tell their doctor. Getting good sleep helps people have a healthy heart,” he said.