Are Chest Pain and Lack of Sleep Related?


Written by Alison Deshong

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Breus

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Medical Disclaimer: The following content should not be used as medical advice or as a recommendation for any specific supplement or medication. It is important to consult your health care provider prior to starting a new medication or altering your current treatment.

Table of Contents

A growing body of evidence suggests that sleep duration is linked to chest pain. In fact, both a lack of sleep and sleeping too much can increase your risk for chest pain. Even if chest pain is not from a serious cause, it can still impact your ability to get a good night’s rest.

Chest pain can be caused by many medical conditions and should be evaluated by a health care provider. We discuss how sleep is related to chest pain and heart health, as well as actionable steps to help you get a better night’s sleep.

Can Lack of Sleep Cause Chest Pain?

Getting too little sleep may increase your risk of chest pain. Your heart rate and your blood pressure are both lower during sleep than during wakefulness. If you don’t get enough sleep, your heart works harder and your blood pressure remains higher for more hours during the day. This can increase the risk of serious causes of chest pain, including heart attacks.

Sleep-related acid reflux, which can cause a burning sensation in the chest, can be worsened by lack of sleep. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also lead to chest pain that causes nighttime awakenings. Other sleep-related disturbances that cause you to wake up throughout the night, such as sleep apnea or limb movements, create more opportunities for heartburn symptoms to occur. 

Additionally, when you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body becomes more sensitive to pain. Minor aches you wouldn’t otherwise notice may feel more painful and happen more frequently. 

Some mental health conditions such as panic disorder, anxiety, and depression are associated with both chest pain and sleep problems. It’s important to see a doctor in order to determine the exact cause of your chest pain and treat any underlying conditions. 

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Chest Pain?

Sleep apnea has been linked to several other conditions that can cause chest pain, such as hypertension, coronary heart disease, and arrhythmias, as well as heartburn.

People with sleep apnea experience frequent breathing interruptions while they sleep, which can cause their sleep to be fragmented. These interruptions also reduce blood oxygen levels and activate the body’s stress response, which can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease.

Treating sleep apnea can improve sleep, lower high blood pressure, and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack. If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

How Lack of Sleep Affects Heart Health

Regular sleep deprivation may increase your risk of several heart conditions. While sleeping, your body repairs the heart and blood vessels. Thus, getting proper sleep is vital for your heart health

Over time, not getting enough sleep can increase a person’s risk of developing several conditions that can impact heart health, such as:

  • Heart disease 
  • Diabetes 
  • Obesity 
  • High blood pressure 

In addition, sleep deprivation can impact a person’s ability to make lifestyle choices that promote a healthy heart. For example, a person with insomnia may have a hard time getting enough exercise and managing stress during the day due to excessive sleepiness.

How to Prevent Sleep Deprivation

There are several ways to prevent sleep deprivation and get the recommended seven or more hours of sleep per night for adults. Prioritizing your sleep is also important for keeping your heart healthy. If you think you’re not getting enough sleep, incorporating healthy sleep habits can help you get a good night’s rest.

Follow a Consistent Bedtime Schedule

Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning to help train your body to sleep consistently. Try to maintain your sleep schedule even on the weekends and limit differences in bedtime to no more than an hour. Make sure you go to bed early enough to get seven or more hours of sleep.

Create a Bedtime Routine

Try incorporating soothing activities into a bedtime routine such as taking a bath or reading a book to help you wind down. Avoid eating large meals right before bedtime.

Get Enough Sunshine During the Day

Light is crucial in regulating your sleep-wake cycle. Make sure you get outside in the sun, especially early in the morning. At night, avoid bright lights and electronic devices. 

Get Plenty of Exercise During the Day

Being more active during the day can help you sleep better at night. Regular exercise for at least half an hour can improve both your sleep and your heart health. Avoid exercising right before going to bed.

Avoid Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol

Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, which can keep you awake at night. It’s best to avoid smoking entirely to reduce your risk of heart disease and to limit your caffeine intake to only during the morning. Avoid drinking alcohol within a few hours of going to sleep.

Maintain a Comfortable Sleep Environment

Keep your bedroom cool, dark, quiet, and relaxing. Blackout curtains, earplugs, or a more comfortable mattress may be helpful upgrades to achieve a more restful sleep environment.

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When to Talk to Your Doctor About Chest Pain

Seek medical attention immediately if you have chest pain and:

  • The pain is new or severe 
  • It is accompanied by shortness of breath, dizziness, or palpitations 
  • The pain lasts more than a few minutes 
  • It is worsened by physical activity 
  • You are worried by the pain 
  • You are over the age of 65
  • You have a history of heart attacks or cardiovascular disease

If you have chest pain and any of these apply to you, seek immediate help in case it is caused by something serious like a heart attack.

Chest pain can be a challenging symptom because it has many causes, some of which are serious and require immediate medical attention. If you are experiencing any kind of chest pain, it is best to be cautious and see a doctor for evaluation. 

About The Author

Alison Deshong

Staff Writer, Product Testing Team

Alison is a health writer with ample experience reading and interpreting academic, peer-reviewed research. Based in San Diego, she is published in the journal PLOS Genetics and the Journal of Biological Chemistry and has been a copywriter for SmartBug media. With a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of California, Davis, she has nearly a decade of academic research experience in life sciences. She enjoys helping people cut through the noise to understand the bigger picture about sleep and health. Alison likes to stay active with rock climbing, hiking, and walking her dog.

  • POSITION: Stomach Sleeper
  • TEMPERATURE: Neutral Sleeper

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