Sleep & the Heart

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Revitalizing sleep is the foundation of a healthy heart-brain connection. Houston Methodist’s sleep medicine neurologists are experts in the diagnosis, treatment — and potentially prevention — of the cardiovascular impacts of disordered sleep.

As one of only nine centers accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), Houston Methodist’s integrated sleep medicine and neurology team is attuned to whole-patient care. Our expertise extends beyond brain mechanics to the prevention and management of cardiovascular conditions related to disordered sleep.  Sleep is a function of the brain, so sleep disturbance is common in neurological conditions. Busy lifestyles and inconsistent working hours also contribute to reduced sleep quality. Over time, untreated sleep disorders increase the risk of cardiovascular complications, such as high blood pressure, heart failure, weight gain and stroke.  Our collaborative team can improve your health and quality of life from both sides of the heart-brain connection: treating neurological sleep disorders and preventing or managing heart-health conditions they cause. 

Neurological Sleep Disorders

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – An increasingly common sleep disorder, OSA is characterized by reduced or paused breathing during sleep.  
  • Narcolepsy – This condition renders patients unable to stay awake and alert during the major waking time of the day.   
  • Insomnia – Sleep initiation, duration, consolidation or quality is difficult for patients with this sleep disorder. 
  • REM sleep behavior disorder (RSD) – Patients with this condition experience vivid, sometimes violent, dream-reenactment motions during sleep. 
  • Restless leg syndrome – This neurological disorder causes abnormal sensations in the legs that worsen during sleep.  


Heart Conditions Influenced by Sleep Disorders

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Every time you wake from sleep, your heart rate and blood pressure climb, causing your heart to work harder. Long-term, untreated sleep disorders can lead to permanently high blood pressure. Patients with OSA are at particularly high risk of chronic hypertension due to the subsequent loss of oxygen, which causes more frequent waking episodes.

Explore prevention and treatment for high blood pressure >

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Sleep-related breathing disorders can cause heart failure, and vice versa. Research shows that OSA is a significant risk factor for the development of CHF due to irregular breathing, which reduces oxygen levels and subsequently initiates frequent waking. This extra workload on the heart worsens the CHF in a vicious cycle. However, specialized heart failure and OSA treatment can improve heart function and sleep quality.

Learn more about heart failure diagnosis and treatment >


Strokes occur when oxygen is reduced or cut off to the brain. Hypertension is the leading cause of stroke and is directly associated with OSA. Middle-aged and older patients with OSA face roughly twice the risk of stroke as their peers. The worse the sleep apnea, the higher the risk of stroke. Other effects from OSA, such as excessive sleepiness, may slow down recovery after a stroke.  

Houston Methodist is home to the first comprehensive stroke center in the U.S. Our neurology and neurosurgical experts provide the highest level of stroke prevention and treatment, including clinical trials that offer advanced therapies not yet widely available at other institutions.

Explore our stroke expertise >


Treatments & Procedures

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Houston Methodist offers the latest diagnostic and treatment options for sleep disorders with heart-health implications.

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