It's a vicious cycle: Studies link sleep problems to a host of cardiovascular risks and conditions, while heart disease -- in particular heart failure -- often interrupts sleep.
"People come to the doctor and forget to talk about their sleep," says Dana Supe, M.D., a pulmonologist and director of the sleep diagnostics lab at Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, New Jersey. "Some don't even realize there is a problem, they've become so accustomed to sleeping poorly."
Nancy Foldvary-Schaefer, D.O. and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Cleveland Clinic, says that insufficient and disrupted sleep -- especially from sleep apnea, when breathing stops and starts repeatedly during sleep -- strains the heart over time and has been linked to:
-- heart failure
-- high blood pressure
-- heart attack
-- pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the arteries to the lungs)
Conversely, heart failure, angina (chest pain), and atrial fibrillation or palpitations (the sensation of a racing or pounding heart) can disturb sleep.
Sleep problems also can lead to changes in metabolism that boost the odds of developing obesity and diabetes, two major risk factors for heart disease.
But there is good news: Treating sleep problems may improve heart health, and vice versa.