As a physician in the Sleep Center at Jersey City Medical Center, Jyoti Matta, MD, routinely treats patients whose poor sleep habits have impacted their heart health.
Dr. Matta, who specializes in pulmonary and critical care medicine as well as sleep medicine, said the inability to get a good night’s sleep can have a detrimental impact on cardiovascular health, especially in people with underlying conditions such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, irregular heart rhythms, including atrial fibrillation.
One of the most common causes of poor sleep is a disorder known as sleep apnea in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring loudly and feeling tired even after a full night's sleep.
“There is a direct correlation with untreated sleep apnea and coronary artery disease,” Dr. Matta said.
As part of American Heart Month, Jersey City Medical Center seeks to raise awareness of ways people can reduce the risk of heart disease. It turns out that getting a good night’s sleep is key to a healthy heart.
Poor sleep habits, sleeping late and not getting enough sleep can lead to weight gain and weight gain can also lead to an increased likelihood of getting obstructive sleep apnea, Dr. Matta said.
“Patients who don't sleep well, who have trouble falling asleep or trouble staying asleep are also prone to weight gain,” Dr. Matta said. “Insomnia also has some direct effect on poorly controlled blood pressure and poorly controlled diabetes. “
For patients who are diabetic, sleep apnea can impact the body’s ability to control blood sugar adequately.
Dr. Matta said the coronavirus pandemic is also impacting the quality of sleep in many people.
“Many patients are experiencing symptoms of undue anxiety, loneliness and depression,” she said. “It translates into poor sleep quality. Some of these patients already had undiagnosed sleep issues to begin with and now it is manifesting as a sleep disorder.”
People who are not able to fall asleep easily, toss and turn throughout the night or wake up with a feeling of not being refreshed may have a sleep disorder.
“Common signs to look out for are feeling fatigued and tired during the day, the inability to focus on work, having irritability or problems with their mood and progressive weight gain,” Dr. Matta said.
Patients who are overweight, or have significant heart disease, hypertension or heart failure, may not have symptoms of sleep disorder, but could still benefit from a sleep study, Dr. Matta said.
“Sleep disorders are often not properly diagnosed,” Dr. Matta said.
A common therapy for treating sleep apnea is a CPAP machine that helps patients breathe better while they are sleeping.
“With sleep apnea, if there's the ability to sustain some weight loss, then it does improve the severity of sleep apnea,” Dr. Matta said. “But most patients will still require to use some sort of therapy based on the severity of their Illness.”