When you sleep, you give your body a chance to repair itself. In the hours we spend snoozing, our brains clear out abnormal proteins, our heart rates gradually slow, and we undergo cellular repair and rejuvenation. Our mitochondria—our body’s energy generators—also recover from the day. If these mitochondria aren’t given adequate time to recharge, board-certified cardiologist Michael Twyman, M.D. explained on a recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, our risk of heart disease skyrockets.
“If you don’t heal your mitochondria at night, it almost doesn’t matter how well you eat or how much you exercise; your body has broken mitochondrial engines, and you’re not going to make energy as efficiently,” Twyman said.
Getting a solid night’s sleep can also reduce other cardiovascular risk factors such as chronic inflammation3, high blood pressure4, and blood sugar disturbance5, according to the AHA. It brings mental health benefits too, and mental health disorders can also contribute to heart disease6.
One study conducted on nearly 7,000 U.S. adults earlier this year found that those who reported poor sleep had a higher risk of developing heart disease7, regardless of race or sex. In another 2022 study, older people with insomnia were significantly more likely to have had a heart attack or undergone a procedure to open blocked arteries in the past 16 months than those who did not have the sleep disorder. The only other risk factors that were more significant than insomnia in this research were smoking and low physical activity. As lead study author Lars Frojd writes in a news release8, “16% of recurrent major adverse cardiovascular events might have been avoided if none of the participants had insomnia.”