How Your Sleep Affects Your Heart
When you think about improving heart health, food and exercise may come to mind. Sleep is just as important, although many people regard it as a luxury rather than a necessity.
Yet many people consider sleeping a luxury rather than a necessity. “Most Americans are probably sleep-deprived to some degree,” says Patil. According to the CDC, one in three American adults sleeps less than the recommended 7-9 hours per night. Over time, this can put them at increased risk for conditions that can affect the heart, including obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Regular quality sleep allows your body to get the restorative rest it needs. Without it, you are more likely to get health problems. And this, in turn, can affect your heart.
In addition, people with sleep apnea are more likely to develop heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. Chronic insomnia also increases the risk of developing heart disease over time.
Link to sleep and heart health
The overlap between heart health and sleep disorders is so strong that some heart centers employ sleep specialists. Such is the case with the Miami Cardiovascular Institute at Baptist Health in Florida, where Harnit Walia, MD, serves as director of sleep medicine and continuous improvement. Walia says she regularly educates her patients about the connection between sleep, heart health, and overall health.
Often, she says, people don’t realize how bad sleep problems can be for the heart. “It’s like high cholesterol. Sometimes you don’t know it’s causing you something bad until you start treatment,” Valia says. “Many times people show symptoms of drowsiness, fatigue, and trouble sleeping, and sometimes they don’t. But it has implications for your body, and you may not be aware of it.”
This inspired Valiya to apply for a fellowship in sleep medicine. “There are more than 80 sleep disorders that affect about 70 million Americans and they involve many organ systems, especially the cardiovascular system,” she says. For these people, better sleep can improve heart health.
Falling asleep is as easy as 1, 2, ZZZ
You probably know the basics of good sleep. It will help your heart – and the rest of your body – do these things.
Don’t be productive in your bedroom. Patil says that your bedroom should be dedicated to rest and relaxation, protected from the hustle and bustle. In his words, “you really want to make the bedroom a bit of an oasis.”
Set a curfew for screens. Walia says you should avoid using electronics 30 minutes before bed to relax. She also recommends trying not to sleep during the day. If you need to take a nap, take it early in the day and for no longer than 20 minutes.
If you do all of these and still feel tired and irritable, or are worried about your sleep, talk to your doctor.
The dream can feel decadent, especially if you feel like you have to be “always-on”. But for a healthy and productive life, it is essential, to have proper nutrition and exercise. Patil puts it this way: “The more you practice healthy sleep throughout your life, the less likely you are to develop these types of sleep disorders and maintain your overall health in the long run.”