Sleep and Heart Health: Why Your Heart Deserves a Good Night’s Sleep
5 min read
Give Your Heart a Good Night SleepWhy is it so important to learn how sleep is connected to heart health? Several known risk factors for heart disease are likely to be an individual's focus before much thought is put into sleep health. However, without adequate sleep, your risk for heart related health issues increases, no matter what your age or weight is, how much you exercise, or how much you smoke.
Sleep is an essential time for the body to repair itself, playing a key role in nearly all aspects of physical health. For the cardiovascular system, insufficient sleep can contribute to problems with blood pressure and heighten the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and stroke.
How much sleep do you need?According to the National Sleep Foundation, the appropriate sleep duration for adults averages between 7 to 9 hours per night. Their studies have shown that people who sleep less than six hours per night had a 20% higher chance of a heart attack. As a result, getting good sleep may help prevent damage to the cardiovascular system. Quality and consistency are also key in sleep health. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each night and achieving uninterrupted sleep is equally as important as getting the recommended 7-9 hours per night.
Is the time you spent sleeping of good quality and actually restorative?People typically judge whether or not they are getting adequate sleep from duration alone. Understanding the importance of quality sleep is the key to making a difference. Sleep is not uniform. Instead, your body goes through several rounds of the sleep cycle over the course of the night. The sleep cycle is composed of four individual stages (NREM 1-3 and REM sleep) that each have a role in allowing your mind and body to wake up refreshed. Progressing smoothly multiple times through the sleep cycle is a vital part of getting true high-quality rest.
During the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep stages, heart rate slows, blood pressure drops, and breathing stabilizes. These changes reduce stress on the heart, allowing it to recover from strain that occurs during waking hours. Without sufficient nightly sleep, a person doesn’t spend enough time in the deep stages of NREM sleep that benefit the heart. As a result, chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to numerous heart problems including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attack, obesity, diabetes, and stroke.
Negative effects of sleep deprivation on heart health:During normal, healthy sleep blood pressure drops by 10-20%. Having poor sleep means your blood pressure does not go down at night, and therefore stays heightened for an unhealthy period of time. Studies done by the National Sleep Foundation have shown that elevated nighttime blood pressure is tied to overall hypertension. Hypertension strains the arteries, causing a lack of blood flow to the brain and heart. A lack of sleep also contributes to chronic inflammation which contributes to plaque formation and hardening of the arteries, creating an obstacle for the immune system. As a result, inadequate sleep increases both hypertension and chronic inflammation, increasing the risk of strokes and heart disease.
Other negative effects to be aware of:
- Poor sleep increases the risk of obesity. Sleep helps to regulate the hormones that control hunger, and a lack of sleep can trigger overeating and cravings for high-calorie foods. Obesity is strongly associated with a number of cardiovascular problems such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
- Type 2 diabetes is related to heart health and sleep deprivation. A lack of sleep worsens glucose metabolism, creating an excess of glucose that damages blood vessels and negatively affects cardiovascular health.
- When sleep is disrupted it causes a quick surge in heart rate and blood pressure. This has been tied to an increased risk of heart palpitations and unexplained chest pains.
Seven Top Tips For Better Sleep:
- Fuel your body. Good sleep starts with a healthy diet. Eat whole foods that are high in nutritients, proteins and healthy fats and low in sugar and refined carbohydrates to stabilize blood sugar levels.
- Avoid substances that disrupt sleep. Eliminate intake of caffeine and tobacco. Regulate alcohol intake.
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. A simple, repeatable and easy routine helps you power down from a busy day and tells your brain, sleep time is near. Our prehistoric ancestors would go to sleep when the sun went down and wake up at sunrise. The 9-10 hours of sleep they had each night allowed them to perform at peak performance.
- Be active and exercise daily. Exercising has a stress-relieving benefits that alleviate fatigue to help you wind down at night.
- Practice a nightly bedtime routine. Adopting good habits or routine activities before bedtime can help reduce stress and anxiety, making It easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Avoid harsh lighting when winding down. Light can inhibit the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone required for sleep. It provides the body's internal biological signal of darkness. The invention of the electric lightbulb revolutionized our sleeping habits. Since that moment we have gradually reduced the amount of sleep we should be getting in order to stay fit, alert, and healthy.
- Make your bedroom a sleep friendly environment. When sleeping, it should be dark and quiet. It is equally important to make your bedroom cool and comfortable. Studies show that sleeping in a cool room (approximately 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit) boosts the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin.