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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Poor sleep habits: heart disease and sleep apnea

BOSTON, MA — The connection between sleep and heart disease is a two-way street: Poor sleep can contribute to heart disease, and heart disease can disturb sleep, reports the January 2007 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

Poor sleep has been linked with high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attack and stroke, diabetes, and obesity. The thread that ties these together may be inflammation, the body’s response to injury, infection, irritation, or disease. Poor sleep increases levels of C-reactive protein and other substances that reflect active inflammation. It also revs up the body’s sympathetic nervous system, which is activated by fright or stress.

Sometimes heart disease is a cause of poor sleep. People with heart failure may wake up with trouble breathing, which stems from fluid buildup in the lungs. There’s also some evidence that heart failure leads to sleep apnea, a breathing problem that can awaken a person repeatedly throughout the night. Some people have nighttime angina (chest pain), bouts of atrial fibrillation, or palpitations (the sensation of a racing or pounding heart) that disturb sleep.

The Harvard Heart Letter suggests that if you aren’t getting enough sleep, you may need better sleep habits like the ones listed below. If these don’t work, talk with your doctor about having a sleep evaluation.

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Use your bed only for sleeping or sex.
  • If you can’t sleep, get out of bed.
  • Go easy on alcohol and caffeine; avoid nicotine.
  • Exercise in the late afternoon.

Also in this issue of the Harvard Heart Letter

  • Are you prepared for a cardiac emergency?
  • Making connections good for the heart and soul
  • Talking, tools make for better medical decisions
  • Ask the doctor: Can coronary artery grafts break?
  • Ask the doctor: Is it okay to stop taking warfarin when atrial fibrillation stops?
  • Ask the doctor: Do I need a thallium stress test every year?
  • Reader to Reader
  • Trying times for painkiller choices
  • Heart Beat: Real age - diabetes
  • How qualified are health claims for food?
  • Heart attack warning signs
  • Defibrillators deliver the shock of a lifetime

More Harvard Health News »

About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.