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Snooze Your Way to a Healthier Heart

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By: Karen Yontz Center Staff

How many of you can honestly say you get a good night’s sleep most nights? One where you sleep through the night and wake up feeling rested and refreshed in the morning? More than 1 in 3 adults say they don’t get this type of sleep on a regular basis, and that can mean problems for your heart. Lack of sleep doesn’t necessarily cause heart disease, but what it does do is increase the risk factors for heart disease.

Adults who sleep less than 7 hours a night are more likely to have:

When we sleep normally, our body can repair a lot of the everyday damage that occurs while we are awake. Demand on our heart decreases which allows blood pressure to naturally drop. Sleep also causes the body to slow our breathing and relax our muscles which can reduce inflammation and lower stress hormones. This deep, relaxing sleep may also help improve blood sugar control as well as keep the portion of the brain that controls hunger functioning properly. Once we start having less restful sleep or sleeping too long (9+ hours) or too little (less than 6 hours), we don’t receive these benefits. It’s important to speak to your doctor if you notice you aren’t sleeping well regularly. You may need to participate in a sleep study to find out what is causing the problem.

What about those of us who don’t have a sleep problem, but we would just like to get better, more restful sleep. First, how much sleep equals “a good night”? Many professionals will say that most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a night, but this tends to vary by person. If you are sleeping the right amount, you should be able to get into bed and fall asleep in about 15 minutes and wake up without an alarm clock, feeling rested. The next time you have several days in a row where you don’t need to set an alarm, pay attention to when you fall asleep and wake up naturally. This will give you a clue as to how many hours of sleep are the right amount for you.

Once you know what your ideal amount of sleep is, work out a realistic nighttime routine for yourself. For example, if you want to be in bed with the lights out by 11PM, you could have a cup of tea and turn off your phone/tablet/laptop at 9:30, wash your face and get ready for bed at 10PM and be under the covers reading a book by 10:30. If there’s one thing all sleep experts tend to agree on, it’s the importance of a routine and maintaining good sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene includes:

  • Sticking to a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends
  • Getting enough natural light and physical activity, ideally early in the day
  • Not eating or drinking too close to bedtime, especially things like alcohol, or high sugar or fatty foods
  • Keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet

We may think of sleep as a luxury, but it is a necessary part of our daily life that insures we are functioning at our best. That includes our heart. Do what you can to get good sleep and not only will you feel more awake and involved in life, your heart will be thankful too.

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