Heart Disease is a leading cause of death in people with mood disorders and there are more obstacles to overcome for people with these illnesses. Antipsychotic medications are known to increase the chances of gaining weight and having higher cholesterol levels. These medications also can have an impact on how electricity is conducted through the heart. They also tend to be sedating, and may make it tough to exercise, and lack of exercise can further increase the risk of heart disease. Also, there is a higher rate of smoking in people with mood disorders than people without, and smoking is a serious risk factor for heart disease.
Recent research has show that less sleep can increase the risk of heart disease. A study published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association examined the calcium buildup in the arteries of the hearts of 495 adults. Calcium build up in the coronary arteries (the heart arteries), may be a predictor of coronary heart disease. The participants had CT scans of their heart completed 5 years apart, kept a sleep diary of their sleep habits, and filled out a sleep questionnaire. The participants also agreed to wear a wrist monitor while they slept for 6 nights to estimate how much time they were asleep and lying still. The study showed that while none of the subjects had calcium deposits visible on the CT scan when the study started, 12.3% did after 5 years. The findings showed that the risk of calcification was cut by a third with one hour of extra sleep a night and this was after accounting for other risk factors, like smoking. Also, the study showed that other variables of sleep measured in the study were not associated with more calcification of coronary arteries, including daytime sleepiness and sleep quality.
The message I want to share is this: to help take care of your heart, sleep well. If you or a loved one you know has problems or concerns with sleep, a psychiatrist or primary care doctor may be able to give you some advice, offer medication, or a referral to a sleep medicine doctor for further evaluation. Sometimes, snoring or gasping during sleep is a sign of a serious sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, and a person can be almost completely unaware that it's happening.