We’ve all experienced a change in our physical and mental state when we don’t get enough hours of sleep the night before. Our bodies and minds experience exhaustion and we become slower than usual. But what most of us don’t know is that sleep can significantly affect heart health as well. The number of hours and quality of sleep affect our bodies in ways that aren’t obvious. There are many studies that show a relationship between sleep and heart health — both positive and negative. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of sleep and how sleep and heart health go hand-in-hand.
Why a Good Night’s Sleep is Important for the Heart?
Do you know how sleep and heart health are interlinked? What lack of sleep can cause? Let’s understand the importance of sleep for a healthy heart.
- Lower Risk of High Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Problems: When it comes to your heart rate while sleeping, the body has a tendency to regulate blood pressure levels. Studies have shown that blood pressure and heart rate significantly increased in the morning after a sleep-insufficient night. A sleep duration of under 6 hours can result in a spike in blood pressure, which can further lead to cardiovascular complications. This makes a good night’s sleep helpful to combat hypertension and cardiovascular problems
- Improved Immunity: Sleep and the circadian system exerts a strong regulatory influence on immune functions. A sleep cycle with being awake in the night releases pro-inflammatory cytokines which may cause inflammation. However, a regular sleeping pattern of waking up in the morning is associated with anti-inflammatory cytokines that help immune function. Hence, along with quantity and quality of sleep, it is also important to maintain a good sleeping pattern with morning wakefulness. A regular sleeping pattern can also help our heart health.
- Enhanced Cognitive Functioning and Lower Stress: Stress contributes to cardiovascular complications. Sleep, mood, stress, and cognitive abilities such as decision-making, and memory are all interrelated. Sleeping well elevates your mood, helps you think with a clearer mind and therefore, also aids in alleviating stress.
- Weight Maintenance: Good sleep helps in making better food choices and choosing healthier foods, avoiding late-night snacking and maintaining the body’s resting metabolic rate. Weight loss is linked to improved cardiovascular health.
What Happens if You Don’t Sleep Enough?
Lack of sleep causes negative impacts on our health and causes our overall heart health to deteriorate.
- High Blood Pressure: Can lack of sleep cause high blood pressure? Yes, it can. As we’ve stated previously, blood pressure and heart rate during sleep decrease — this is known as “nocturnal dipping”. Nocturnal dipping is normal and an absence of it can be an indicator of cardiovascular risk. Lack of sleep interferes with this process and thus, increases the risk of hypertension and heart problems. This is why sleep and heart health go together.
- Weight Gain and Obesity: Numerous studies have suggested that restricted sleep and poor sleep quality may lead to metabolic disorders, weight gain, and other chronic health conditions. Sleep can affect appetite since lack of sleep stimulates the hunger hormone, and causes metabolic dysregulation. It also affects food preferences choosing foods higher in calories as it triggers the reward centre of the brain. Research has also shown that losing sleep while dieting can reduce the amount of weight loss and encourage overeating. Weight gain is also associated with cardiovascular problems.
- Type 2 Diabetes: Decreased sleep duration and quality hamper blood sugar regulation which can increase the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a pathway to cardiovascular problems.
- Insomnia: An irregular sleep cycle can eventually lead to insomnia — a condition where you have trouble falling/staying asleep and typically feel exhausted most of the time. Insomnia, if prolonged, can be a risk factor for heart problems.
How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society recommended, that the optimal duration of sleep every night is between 7-9 hours. Sleeping less than 7 hours on a prolonged basis can cause serious health problems such as those discussed above.
If for any reason — whether it is work, stress, or other lifestyle factors — you are unable to get a complete night’s sleep, it is advisable to make changes accordingly or seek professional help to rectify the issue. It is in the best interest of your heart.
Does the Quality of Sleep Make a Difference?
While the number of hours is certainly important, sleep quality or the factors that determine how well you sleep are just as crucial, if not more. These can be categorised as
- How easy it is for you to fall asleep?
- How much time you sleep versus time spent trying to sleep?
- How often do you wake up at night/how long do you manage to stay asleep without disruptions?
- How soon can you fall back asleep if you wake up?
- How many hours of sleep do you get?
- If you feel well-rested, energised, and alert to function well after a good night’s sleep.
Here’s a quick tip: To monitor your heart rate while sleeping, use a fitness band or any good sleep app on your phone to track your sleep and its quality. These devices use different analytics to analyse sleep every night including the different stages, duration, and so on.
What is the Best Way to Get a Good Night’s Rest?
Now that we understand the importance of sleep and heart in relation to one another, the next step is to take action. Here are some natural sleep remedies to ensure a good night’s sleep:
- Set a Routine: Fixing a consistent time to wake up in the morning and go to bed at night trains your body to naturally follow a particular sleep schedule.
- Reduce Screen Time: Most computer and phone screens emit blue light that mimics the effects of sunlight. This delays the process of sleep by making your body feel “awake”. Try to keep all screens away 30 minutes before you go to bed.
- Drink and Eat Right: Consuming liquids such as alcohol and caffeine, and foods high in sugar interfere with sleep quality by making your body feel more “energised/alert”. Avoid these a few hours before sleeping.
- Create the Ambience: Turn the lights down and adjust the temperature to a more comfortable setting. A warm, cosy ambience helps you relax and slide into slumber.
- Get Some Natural Light: Make sure to get enough time in the sun when you wake up. This natural light helps regulate your body clock or “circadian rhythm”.
While these are all-natural sleep remedies you can implement to improve sleep quality, if you experience more severe trouble sleeping well, it is always advisable to consult a doctor.
With this, we hope that going forward, every night will be a good night for you! Remember that getting adequate sleep is important for your heart health, but it is not the only thing. Your heart health and overall health also depend on your overall lifestyle and habits. Here are 5 Habits You Can Start Today for a Healthier Heart.