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Disturbed Sleep

Having disturbed sleep means your body does not get the rest it needs. Disturbed sleep leaves your heart in over-drive, which can make your heart disease worse.

Take action if you have disturbed sleep.

  • Be active during the day.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Keep your bedroom cool and dark.
  • Remove devices from your bedroom.
  • Take one hour to relax before bed.
  • Limit drinking alcohol or doing exercise less than four hours before bed.
  • Talk to a sleep doctor.

What Is Disturbed Sleep?

Disturbed sleep is when your sleeping time is frequently interrupted. You may get less than 5 hours of actual sleep per night even if you are in bed for a much longer time.

Disturbed sleep can also be non-refreshing sleep, which is when you are asleep for 7 hours but awaken feeling as if you have not slept at all. This is due to poor quality sleep.

For most people, 7.5 hours of sleep each night supports heart health and is enough to have a high level of daytime activity.

How Does Disturbed Sleep Affect My Health?

Your cardiovascular system needs a regular routine of rest at night so it is ready for activity the next day. Getting the ideal amount of sleep (7.5 hours) at night allows you to have a good cycle of activity and rest over a 24 hour day. Creating a good rhythm of rest and activity helps to keep your heart healthy.

When you have disruptions in your sleep at night, there is a breakdown in this "rest and restore" period. This breakdown leaves your heart and other body systems in “hyper-arousal” or “over-drive”. Things like lights, computers, and TV can contribute to keeping your body in over-drive. They do this by keeping you alert well into the night.

Disruptions in your sleep can cause problems with the levels of blood sugar, insulin and stress hormones in your body. This can cause weight gain, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure and put you at greater risk of making your heart disease worse.

What Is Moderate Disturbed Sleep?

If you have "moderate" disturbed sleep, your nightly repair time is breaking down. Changing your sleep patterns now can help to reduce your risk of making your heart disease worse. 

Take action to prevent or manage moderate disturbed sleep

To prevent or manage moderate distrubed sleep, adjust your sleep/wake patterns.

  • Keep a regular time to go to sleep and to wake up.
  • Keep your room cool, dark, and free of distractions such as computers and pets.
  • Be active during the day, but don't exercise within 4 hours of bedtime.
  • Take one full hour to wind down at the end of the day, just before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol for 4-6 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid drinking a lot of fluids before bed.
  • Make a sleep ritual to do each night before bed like reading, listening to calm music, or relaxation exercises.
  • Avoid eating heavy meals 2 hours before sleep.

What Is High Disturbed Sleep?

If you have "high" disturbed sleep, this means your sleep is no longer helping you to restore your body or your mind for activity the next day.

Sleeping less than 5 hours a night is stressful on the heart and the body for most people. You feel fatigued during the day and may be drinking coffee or energy drinks or eating lots of sweets to keep going.

If you struggle with highly disturbed sleep, you may complain of “burn out” or emotional exhaustion.

Signs of highly disturbed sleep include:

  • low energy
  • low mood
  • problems thinking (fuzzy mental focus)

You may be at risk of developing depression and other psychiatric disorders. Learn the signs of depression and what to do if you have them »

Take action to manage high disturbed sleep

If you have highly disturbed sleep, consult a sleep doctor for suggestions to improve your sleep patterns.

A cognitive behavioural therapist for insomnia can also help.


  • Goodnight Mind (2013) Colleen E. Carney & Rachel Manber
  • The Healing Power of Sleep (2010). Lynn D. Johnson
  • Overcoming Insomnia: A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Approach Workbook (2008). Jack D. Edinger and Colleen E. Carney, Oxford University Press: New York
  • The Insomnia Workbook (2009). Stephanie Silberg, New Harbinger Bookds: New York.
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