when you think about improving your heart health, food and exercise may come to mind. Sleep is just as important—though many see it as a luxury, not a necessity.
“Just as we talk about eating a low-fat diet to minimize cholesterol and keep your heart healthy, maintaining healthy sleep is important to your overall health,” said Susheel Patil, MD, director of the Sleep Medicine Program at University Hospitals.
However, many people see sleep as a luxury, not a necessity. “Most Americans are probably sleep deprived to some degree,” Patil said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of American adults get less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Over time, this can put them at a higher risk of developing conditions that can affect the heart, including obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Getting good quality sleep on a regular basis can give your body the restorative rest it needs. Without it, you are more likely to have health problems. And that in turn affects your heart.
People who sleep less than 6 hours a night are more likely to gain weight, develop diabetes and be diagnosed with heart disease than those who sleep 7-8 hours, Patil said. And, he said, there is evidence that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to live less than their well-rested peers.
Furthermore, there are sleep apnea Increased risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. Chronic insomnia also increases the risk of heart disease over time.
Sleep Heart Health Links
The overlap between heart health and wellness sleep disorder So powerful that some heart centers have sleep specialists. This is the case at the Miami Heart and Vascular Institute at Florida Baptist Health, where Harneet Walia, MD, serves as director of sleep medicine and continuous improvement. Walia said she regularly educates patients about the link between sleep, heart health and overall health.
People often don’t realize how much sleep problems can affect the heart, she said. “It’s like high cholesterol. Sometimes you don’t know it’s doing you badly until you treat it,” says Walia. “A lot of times people have symptoms of drowsiness, fatigue and trouble sleeping, but sometimes they don’t. But it can have an effect on your body and you may not be aware of it.”
Seeing the impact of sleep on heart health is why Walia focuses on sleep medicine. Early in her career, a patient in the clinic where she worked had what’s called “refractory hypertension.” Despite taking four antihypertensive drugs, his blood pressure was still out of control. The medical team suggested he do a sleep study, which identified a key problem: sleep apnea. After he started CPAP (CPAP) to resolve his sleep apnea, and his blood pressure improved rapidly. So is his mood and quality of life.
This inspired Walia to receive a fellowship in sleep medicine. “There are more than 80 sleep disorders that affect approximately 70 million Americans, and they intersect with many organ systems, particularly the cardiovascular system,” she said. For these people, better sleep can improve heart health.
Fall asleep as easily as 1, 2, ZZZ
You probably know the basics of getting a good night’s sleep. It helps your heart — and the rest of your body — do these things.
Stick to consistent bedtime and wake-up times, even on weekends. Your body and brain will get used to this routine and sleep should be easier. This, Patil said, “may be the most important thing anyone can do to start laying the groundwork for better sleep.”
Don’t be productive in the bedroom. Patil says your bedroom should be dedicated to rest and relaxation, away from the hustle and bustle. As he puts it, “You really want the bedroom to be a bit of an oasis.”
Set a curfew for the screen. Varia says you should avoid electronics 30 minutes before bed to help you relax. She also recommends trying not to take naps during the day. If you must take a nap, do so earlier in the day and for no more than 20 minutes.
If you’ve done all of this and you’re still feeling tired and cranky, or you’re worried about your sleep, talk to your doctor.
Sleep can feel decadent, especially when you feel like you should be “always on.” But for a healthy and productive life, it’s essential, on par with healthy eating and exercise. Here’s what Patil puts it: “The more you can develop healthy sleep habits throughout your life, the less likely you are to develop these types of sleep disorders, and the longer you’ll maintain overall health.”