In "If Only Tonight We Could Sleep," The Cure sang: "If only tonight we could sleep/In a bed made of flowers ... And breathe/And breathe."
That lament could serve as the theme song for people with chronically disturbed sleep, including the 22 million Americans (80% undiagnosed) with sleep apnea and the countless others who sleep poorly because of nighttime noises and stress.
All that starting and snoring takes a toll. Research shows that unconscious wakefulness caused by nighttime traffic noise is strongly associated with cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke — as well as high blood pressure, even in children.
Sleep apnea (frequent interruption in breathing and resulting sleep disturbance) contributes to everything from fatty liver disease and insulin resistance to depression, weight gain, and cognition problems.
And for the first time, analysis of various studies shows a link between the frequency and duration of such sleep disturbances and an increased risk of dying from heart disease — especially for women. The studies tracked people for six to 11 years, and researchers found that women with the most disturbed sleep doubled their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Men weren't as affected.
Excess weight and untreated sleep apnea — major causes of disturbed sleep — can be managed or reversed. Work with your doctor, a nutritionist, and an exercise coach.
Quiet nighttime noises by sealing windows and using heavy drapes, white noise machines, and earplugs.
And check out SleepScore.com, where you'll find products curated for their ability to help you sleep well.