Preeti Lekhra

Dr. Preeti Lekhra 

About one third of Citrus County adults don’t get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night. And now we’re learning of new potential heart health consequences for those who go without.   

A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology Foundation states people not getting regular and enough sleep could end up paying with heart disease. Bayfront Health Seven Rivers hospital and its affiliated medical clinics are now emphasizing to their patients the importance of a sufficient sleep schedule.

Here are some basics about your heart and about sleep.  

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Your cardiovascular system follows strong circadian rhythms, including biochemical, physiological, and behavioral processes that rise and fall during the day and night.

That’s similar to our sleep and wake cycle that also follows those rhythms.

The 2020 published study found that people with the most irregular sleep habits had more than twice the risk of developing heart disease compared to people with regular and consistent sleep patterns.

As a result, Bayfront Health physicians are now recommending enough sleep as part of a heart health regiment, along with exercise and a regular diet.

In a 2016 survey by the Department of Health and collected by Florida HealthCharts, nearly 75% of Citrus County respondents 65 years old and older reported sleeping at least seven hours a night. But that fell to just under 57% for Citrus County people 45 years old to 64 years old. That’s about 5 percentage points lower than the Florida average for that age group.

“Inadequate and erratic sleep can lead to heart muscle exhaustion,” said Dr. Preeti Lekhra “Get adequate rest and keep your heart at its best.”

Lekhra is a primary care physician with Bayfront Health Medical Group.

Why is sleep important?

Your body uses the time that you sleep to repair damaged tissues, fight infections and illnesses, and lets your brain process that day’s events.

Lack of sleep can also cause a host of problems.

Too much variability in sleep duration or timing is associated with higher blood pressure, deregulated blood lipids and insulin resistance that can lead to diabetes.

According to the Mayo Clinic, research suggests that sleeping five hours or less a night can, over time, can increase your risk of developing, or worsening, high blood pressure. 

About 25% of people with diabetes report sleeping less than six hours or more than eight hours a night, which puts them at a higher risk of having elevated blood sugar, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Insufficient sleep can affect your body in other ways too, according to the Laredo Medical Center in Lardeo, Texas.

  • Immune functioning is compromised as your body produces fewer antibodies so you’re more likely to get sick and the body has fewer resources to stave off illness, including cancers.
  • Impulse control and appetite hormones can become unbalanced, promoting overeating and obesity.
  • Mental function can be diminished making problem solving made more difficult.
  • Learning is affected. That means your ability to learn new information, to consolidate and absorb the information and make new mental connections, and ability to remember and retrieve the information, can be reduced.

“The quality of sleep is also important,” Lekhra said. “If you feel tired when you wake up or throughout the day, it could be a sign of another issue such as sleep apnea.” 

Many things can cause problems in sleeping and sleep deprivation. They include stress, sleep apnea and chronic insomnia.

Bayfront Health wants its doctors and your doctor to diagnose whether you could benefit from medication or behavioral therapy or if a thorough sleep study is needed.

Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at or 352-397-5914.