Getting enough sleep is important for more than just feeling rested — in fact, your sleep habits have a direct impact on the health of your heart.
According to the CDC, the typical adult needs between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. Missing out on a few hours here and there may not seem like much, but repeatedly not getting a full night’s sleep over time can actually have a serious effect on your health, including your heart.
Here’s what you need to know about getting enough sleep and keeping your heart healthy.
How a Lack of Sleep Affects Your Heart
Sleeping fewer than seven hours each night is associated with an increased likelihood of developing a number of health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, asthma, depression, and more.
A lack of sleep can lead to the development of high blood pressure. Our bodies’ natural sleep cycles and circadian rhythms help to lower blood pressure while we rest — therefore, sleeping fewer hours each night can contribute to increased blood pressure. High blood pressure in turn is a significant contributing factor for heart disease and strokes.
Patients who are not sleeping enough are also at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, which causes glucose to accumulate in the blood and even damage blood vessels. There’s evidence to suggest that good sleep practices can help patients with diabetes improve their blood sugar control.
Insufficient sleep can also contribute to weight gain, which adds additional stress on the heart and cardiovascular system. This is in part due to the fact that improper sleep habits can cause the brain to regulate appetite and other bodily processes more erratically. Ultimately, getting enough rest is key to helping prevent a number of serious medical conditions.
How Sleep Conditions Can Affect Your Heart
On top of this, there are certain sleep conditions — like sleep apnea and insomnia — that can have a negative impact on your heart health, as well.
Sleep apnea refers to when someone’s breathing is repeatedly disrupted during sleep by their airway becoming blocked. This causes the person to stop breathing for short periods, which lowers the amount of oxygen that’s able to enter the person’s bloodstream while they sleep. Conditions like heart failure and obesity can be contributing factors to developing sleep apnea, which in turn raises the chance of developing high blood pressure or suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Insomnia, on the other hand, refers to an inability to fall or stay asleep, which studies have found to be associated with increased risk for both cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Insomnia affects as much as 30-50 percent of adults in a short term capacity, but is a chronic condition for approximately 1 in 10 adults, and a leading cause of hypertension, as well.
How You Can Get a Better Night’s Sleep
If you’re trying to be better about your sleep habits, it’s crucial that you stick to a regular sleep schedule. Getting up and going to bed at the same time each day establishes a routine that can help prepare your mind and body for sleep. Maintaining a cool temperature in your bedroom has been linked to better sleep, too.
Paying attention to light can also help. Try to get natural light early in the day by going for a walk, and avoid artificial light later in the day — especially in the hours before you go to bed. Blue light, which is generated by a lot of our devices with screens, is especially disruptive to the body’s circadian rhythms, so you want to purchase blue light filters for your electronic devices.
Finally, make sure you’re getting enough physical activity early in the day. While exercising before bed may seem like it would tire you out, the reverse is true and can actually be disruptive to your ability to sleep. You should also try to avoid eating or drinking within a few hours of when you go to bed, taking care to avoid alcohol and foods that are high in sugar or fat, both of which are known to interfere with the quality of your sleep.
Your Cardiovascular Health Care Provider
If you are not sleeping well, are not getting enough sleep, and are concerned about your heart, contact Tri-City Cardiology today. We’re ready and able to provide you with the resources and care you need to help you take charge of your health — and your sleep schedule.