Eliz Greene

Poor sleep is bad for your heart AND your brain!

An article about poor sleep and the build-up of plaque in the body caught my eye. The study is remarkable in that it is the first study: “to show that objectively measured sleep is independently associated with atherosclerosis throughout the body,” according to José Ordovás, director of nutrition and genomics at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

More about that in a moment.

What really caught my attention was further down in the article:

A lab-based research study tied the lack of sleep with severe cognitive decreases.

In fact, they found if, over two weeks, you are sleeping less than six hours per night your cognitive and reflex abilities are the same as someone who didn’t sleep for two full nights.


This means most of us are functioning at a decreased level most of the time!

The study also connected the chronic lack of sleep with anxiety and depression.

Now back to the increase of plaque due to lack of sleep.

The study found that people who sleep less than six hours per night are 27% more likely to have plaque develop in their bodies than people who sleep seven to eight hours per night.

People who are up and down all night are 34% more likely to develop plaque.

Why is plaque terrible for your heart and brain?

Think of plaque as sludge forming on the inside of pipes. As plaque builds, the artery walls thicken which narrows the space available for blood to flow. Ultimately, the buildup of plaque slows down the flow of blood. This reduced blood flow robs cells of the oxygen they need. This type of heart disease, atherosclerosis, is often referred to as “hardening of the arteries.”

  • When these plaque deposits are in arteries that supply the heart, it is called coronary artery disease and can cause a heart attack.
  • When they form in the arteries that supply the arms and legs, it is called peripheral artery disease.
  • When they form in the arteries that supply the brain, it can cause a stroke and is associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

I often say, “Sleep is the magic ingredient that makes everything else work.”

picture of sleep tip slide from motivational wellness speaker eliz greene stress program


Yet, the stress chemical, cortisol, can make it difficult to fall asleep. One of the best things you can do to get more sleep is to disconnect from stress triggers in the 2 – 3 hours before bed. We all need different activities to disconnect. You can find out your Stress Recovery Personality here (are your an iguana or a border collie) and get some suggestions for the types of activities to that will help you disconnect.



About Eliz Greene

Eliz Greene survived a heart attack at age 35 while seven months pregnant with twins. Her down-to-earth strategies to manage stress and improve heart health and reduce stress are used by thousands of busy people all over the world. She is a motivational wellness speaker, author, and job stress researcher. Visit elizgreene.com to book Eliz for your next event.

One Response to “Does lack of sleep make you stupid?”

  • I had insomnia for three weeks because I went off of Ativan & had six months severe stress with high cortisol levels And the dr. did not give me a sleep med. I am not as bright, feel more concrete & flat in my mind each day I didn’t sleep & got worse. My mind literally is without thought & blank. Will this all improve as I get solid sleep again? Will my IQ go up again as I stimulate my brain again?

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