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How Sleep Can Affect Your Heart Health

According to the CDC, the average adult needs approximately 7 hours of sleep to stay healthy. As many of us know from personal experience, that doesn’t always happen and for a significant number of Americans, sleep deprivation is the norm. While we can recover from poor sleep over a day or two or even a week, long-term sleep deprivation can lead to serious problems. We know that increases in blood pressure, a higher risk of type II diabetes and increased rates of obesity have all been tied, in part, to lack of sleep. Ultimately, these conditions can lead to cardiovascular disease like a heart attack and even stroke.

A recent study, published in the European Heart Journal followed almost 400,000 British adults, giving them one point for each of the five main criteria of healthy sleep. These five criteria were

  • Waking up early
  • Sleeping to 7 to 8 hours
  • No insomnia
  • No snoring
  • Not being tired during the day

The gist of the research is that those who experience the highest quality of sleep had 34% reduction in risk of coronary heart disease and stroke versus those with the lowest quality of sleep. Some other interesting conclusions included those genetically predisposed to higher cardiovascular risk can actually reduce their risk through good sleep quality. Further, those hitting multiple sleep quality indicators enjoyed cumulatively more benefit to their health.

The Heart House’s Take

We’ve always known that sleep is critical for the proper functioning of the body. Mental and physical health is improved with better sleep quality. This study was particularly interesting because it showed how significant the benefit of good sleep can actually be as it relates to heart health. Also, very interesting that quality sleep is protective for those genetically predisposed to heart disease.

How Can We Improve Our Sleep Quality?

We’ve understood that sleep quality is critical to our heart health, but most of us have a hard time getting to bed when we really should. Indeed, lifestyle changes over the past couple generations have made it ever harder to get to sleep that we need. So, what can be done?

  • First, setting a bedtime schedule and routine can be very helpful. Going to sleep around the same time every night and waking up around the same time every morning trains your brain and body to sleep better.
  • Avoid the blue light that you often get from TVs, smart phones or computers in the few hours leading up to bedtime. Blue light tricks our bodies into believing that it is daytime and to throw off our natural sleep timer. You can use the night shift feature of many new electronics or employ a blue light filter. The best option is just to shut off the device.
  • The room in which you sleep should be cool, dark and quiet.
  • Get out more. Getting some natural light during the day is critical for your sleep. Further, getting outside during the day is healthy and can help your mood.
  • Make sure you get enough physical activity during the day. Whether to walk, run, swim or other exertion. However, try to avoid strenuous exercise right before bed.

Feel like there are overwhelming number of lifestyle changes that we have to make to promote our heart health. But the reality is that each of these changes are simple, commonsense changes that we have strayed from over the past several generations. Getting to sleep and sleeping well should be a top priority for anyone who wishes to improve their heart health in 2020!

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