By Teri Elkins
Most people are aware that proper nutrition, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight play a key role in heart health, but what about sleep?
Proper sleep habits are paramount to a healthy heart. Not getting enough sleep, as well as getting too much sleep, increases your risk of mortality significantly. In addition, getting good quality sleep is equally as important.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than one in three American adults claim they don’t get the recommended amount of sleep, which is 7-8 hours per night. American Heart Association officials stated an irregular sleep pattern (one that varies from the seven to nine hours nightly) is linked to a host of cardiovascular risks, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary artery disease.
Adults that are not getting the recommended hours of sleep on most nights may have higher levels of stress hormones, which can trigger anxiety and increase inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a key player in cardiovascular disease. Additionally, sleep apnea (when a person stops breathing for short amounts of time) affects how much oxygen the body gets while it is at sleep. This lack of oxygen increases the risk for high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Insomnia (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep) is also linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. Even one or two nights of insufficient sleep can affect a person’s system.
On the other hand, there is some evidence that getting too much sleep also plays a role in heart problems. Getting too much sleep (more than nine hours per night) can cause calcium buildup in the artery walls leading to heart failure and stroke.
As people age, their sleep patterns change. Many older adults have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep. They also spend less time in a deep sleep, which can cause people to wake more often. This can be for a variety of reasons, including the need to use the restroom, taking certain medications, anxiety, discomfort or pain from other medical problems.
Below are seven tips to help you get better sleep.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.
- Do not take naps during the day.
- Get enough physical activity during the day. Try not to exercise within a few hours of bedtime.
- Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine (coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate) for at least 3-4 hours before bed.
- Avoid too much stimulation, such as violent TV shows or computer games before sleep.
- Avoid artificial light, especially within a few hours of bedtime. Use a blue light filter on your computer or smartphone.
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
Sleep plays a key role in good overall health, maintaining healthy brain function, weight control, energy, immune function, emotional stability, heart health and so much more. Make sleep a priority starting today!
Editor’s Note: Ms. Elkins, MPH, CHES is Sun Health Wellness in Surprise certified health education specialist, ACE-certified health coach and health and wellness coordinator.