How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart?
In our society which seems to glorify being busy, penciling in time in our schedules for sleep each night may seem impossible. However, getting adequate sleep should be a priority. It is critical to good health. Sleep helps your body repair itself, and it is also important for the health of your heart.
How much sleep do I need?
Adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night. However, more than one in three American adults report not receiving the recommended amount of sleep.1 Not getting enough sleep for a short time may cause no other problem other than struggling to keep your eyes open the next day. Going for longer periods of time without adequate sleep, however, may lead to new health problems or intensify current problems.
What health conditions am I at risk of due to lack of sleep?
Asthma, heart attack, and depression are common conditions that are more likely to occur in those who receive less than 7 hours of sleep each night. Some health problems that are more likely may raise the risk for heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. These problems include:
Lack of sleep can cause an unhealthy weight gain. This is especially true for children and young adults, who need more sleep. Inadequate sleep affects the part of the brain that controls hunger, leading to overeating. Like adults, many American children do not get enough sleep. If you are unsure of the recommended sleep for your child’s age group, visit SleepFoundation.org. 2
Type 2 diabetes
Diabetes causes sugar to build up in your blood. This condition may damage your blood vessels. Some studies show that getting enough quality sleep may help improve blood sugar.
High blood pressure
During quality sleep, blood pressure lowers. If you do not sleep well, your blood pressure stays higher for a longer period of time. High blood pressure is one of the leading risk factors of stroke and heart disease. To learn about managing blood pressure, check out our article “High Blood Pressure Management.”
How do I get better sleep?
Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
Keeping your body on a schedule helps greatly. Attempt to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, whether it’s a workday or weekend.
Expose yourself to natural light during the day. Try going for a walk in the morning or at lunchtime. Get enough physical activity during the day, and try not to exercise earlier in the day as opposed to the hours before bed.
Avoid artificial light, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime. Use a blue light filter on your smartphone or computer.
Don’t eat or drink within a few hours of bedtime, especially alcohol and foods high in fat or sugar.
Need a physician to help you work to conquer sleep difficulties? Find one by visiting ccmhhealth.com/providers.
1 Liu Y, Wheaton AG, Chapman DP, Cunningham TJ, Lu H, Croft JB. Prevalence of healthy sleep duration among adults — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65:137-41.
2 SleepFoundation.org. How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Health? 2020.
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