How Good Sleep Can Keep Your Heart Healthy
There continues to be a great deal of publicity about the importance of exercise, a good diet and avoiding stress for good heart health. These are all important factors in keeping the heart healthy and by doing so, avoid both cardiac conditions and other health issues caused by or related to heart functioning. The focus on exercise, diet and stress has unfortunately led many people to overlook the importance of good sleep in protecting heart health. Studies indicate that people with chronic sleep disturbance issues such as insomnia or sleep apnea have a lower life expectancy compared to those who regularly get a good night’s sleep.
What Is a Good Night’s Sleep?
There is no exact definition of the time that constitutes proper sleep. It varies from person to person and is influenced by lifestyle, metabolic issues and other health conditions. That said it is generally accepted that those who sleep less than 6 hours at night are more prone to various health issues, including cardiac conditions as compared to those who get 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night. The link between proper sleep and heart health is so strong that many leading hospitals have sleep specialists in their cardiology departments.
Symptoms of Inadequate Sleep
Besides the obvious signs such as constant (or fits of) yawning during the day, fatigue and drowsiness, the other symptoms of inadequate sleep are:
- Slow thinking
- Inefficient memory
- Lower attention spans
- Hesitation in decision making
- Bouts of extreme lassitude
- Mood changes
- Feelings of stress, anxiety and irritability
A person suffering from any of these symptoms for any length of time should consult a doctor to have the cause of the problem diagnosed and treatment begun.
Sleep and Heart Health
Research shows that inadequate sleep or poor sleep quality is associated with elevated cholesterol levels, atherosclerosis, unhealthy blood pressure levels, increased irritability and stress. All these, either alone or in combination, are major factors in the development of cardiac conditions. In addition, poor/inadequate sleep is also associated with:
- Lack of appetite leads to a bad diet resulting in health issues related to digestive disorders as well as overeating and weight gain.
- Studies provide a definite link between inadequate sleep and developing type 2 diabetes. Besides the dangers of this disease, the high levels of blood sugar it causes can lead to high blood pressure and triglyceride levels that cause blood vessel and nerve damage. People with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from heart attacks and strokes.
- Inadequate sleep has been linked to inflammation and the inflammatory process can elevate the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Insufficient or poor sleep is a major cause of stress, tension and irritability, all of which contribute to heart problems.
- Insufficient or poor sleep can lead to a wide range of other health issues, many of which can have an indirect, but significant impact on the possibility of developing heart health issues.
Also Read: The Link Between Diabetes And Obesity
How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep?
It is a sad fact that modern lifestyles with the pressures they place on career, social interactions and personal relationships as well as the lack of adequate exercise all work to create physical and mental conditions that impact sleep quality. Even if people understand why they are unable to sleep properly, it is often impossible to overcome the obstacles to sleep.
There are a few basic and easy rules to follow that will often help in improving the quality and duration of sleep. These include:
- Setting a consistent sleep and wake-up time. This will enable both the body and brain to get used to a routine that will make falling asleep easier.
- Make the bedroom a place of rest. That means not taking a laptop to bed, or getting involved in messaging or calls on a mobile phone before going to sleep. Turn off the computer at a reasonable time and then ignore it till the morning, even if just checking for emails for a few minutes is tempting. Set the ‘Do Not Disturb’ function on the phone so that no calls or messages disturb you before you go to sleep.
- Avoid watching TV before going to sleep. Just like computers and smartphones, the blue light from the screen will disrupt the sleep cycle.
- Go to sleep at a reasonable time, preferably before 11 PM so waking up at 7 AM means 8 hours of sleep.
- Keep the bedroom dark and quiet when going to sleep.
- Get enough physical exercise during the day. This will burn up any unutilized energy and make it easier to fall asleep.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and heavy meals before going to sleep.
- Eat the last meal of the day at least 2 hours before bedtime.
If a person is unable to get a good night’s sleep, either in terms of time or sleep quality, it is an issue that should not be ignored. The longer the sleep problems remain unaddressed, the more damage they can cause in terms of cardiac health, general well-being and mental peace. The do-it-yourself methods of dealing with poor sleep never work and usually only lead to more stress. Self-medication in the form of drugs, sedatives or alcohol to try and get more sleep will only do more harm, to both the heart and overall health.
Also Read: 7 Proven Ways to Live a Heart Healthy Life
There is only one way to deal with sleep problems and that is by going to a multispecialty hospital where the cardiology and other departments, with the best specialists and medical equipment, will be able to work together to diagnose the causes of the lack of proper sleep and then develop a holistic treatment plan that will effectively deal with the problem to return the patient to a healthy sleep status and by doing so, improve the overall quality of life.
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