Different Ways That Sleep Affects Heart Health

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There are many
reasons as to why you should get a good night’s sleep, but perhaps one of the
most important is because of the effect sleep has on our hearts. Many of us
tend not to think of our sleep affecting something as important as our heart,
but research has shown that in the past 50 years, our sleep duration has
decreased by around 2 hours per night. That’s a lot of sleep to be missing out
on over the course of a week.

Getting a good
night’s sleep has hugely positive effects on our bodies, from increased energy
levels, heightened senses and of course, heart health. Sleep should not be
considered a luxury – it is as important for the human body as food, water and
oxygen. Sleep enables our body to rest and repair and helps us to function
properly, but how else does it affect our hearts?

How much sleep do I need?


On average, most
adults need around 7 hours of sleep each night. Of course, children and
teenagers need more sleep than adults as they are growing, with teenagers
needing around 8-10 hours and children around 11-14 hours of sleep a night.
However, around a third of adults don’t think that they get enough sleep and
whilst this is ok for a day or so, if you are regularly not getting enough
sleep then over time this can lead to serious health problems or make
underlying health conditions worse.

Sleep conditions linked to a lack of sleep

Adults who get less
than 7 hours of sleep a night are much more likely to have health problems,
such as asthma, depression and heart attacks. Some of these health problems also cause other concerns,
such as:

       
High blood pressure

During
normal sleep, your blood pressure naturally decreases as your heart isn’t
having to work as hard as when you are awake. But, having problems sleeping
means that your blood pressure stays higher for longer periods of time and high
blood pressure is one of the leading risks for stroke and heart disease.

       
Type 2 diabetes

Diabetes
is a disease which causes sugar to build up in your veins and blood and is a
condition which can cause lasting damage to blood vessels. Some studies have
shown that by getting the recommended amount of sleep, you can help to improve
the way your body controls blood sugar.

       
Obesity

Not
getting enough sleep can lead to unhealthy weight gain as a lack of sleep
affects the part of the brain which controls hunger. This is more true for
children and adolescents than adults.

How can these conditions affect heart health?

Over time,
regularly not getting enough sleep can hurt your heart and cause even more
issues and damage.

Sleep apnea happens when your
airways repeatedly become blocked during your sleep, which then causes you to
stop breathing for short amounts of time. Sleep apnea can be caused and made
worse by certain health issues and complaints, such as heart failure and
obesity. Sleep apnea affects how much oxygen your body gets whilst you are
asleep and can be made worse by conditions such as obesity, as more pressure is
put on your airways whilst you sleep.

Insomnia is when you have issues
falling asleep, staying asleep or even both. It is believed that around 1 in 2
adults will experience short-term insomnia at some point in their lives, with 1
in 10 people going on to develop long-lasting insomnia. Insomnia is linked to
both heart disease and high blood pressure and over time, poor sleep can lead
to unhealthy habits which can hurt your heart including high-stress levels and
unhealthy food choices.

How you can get a better night’s sleep

There are many
different ways in which you can get a better night’s sleep. Try to stick to a
regular sleep schedule and go to bed at the same time each night. Get up at the
same time every day, even on the weekends, as there is little evidence which
shows that weekend lie-ins have a positive effect on upping your overall sleep
duration and if anything it can make you feel more tired.

Eating a balanced
diet is hugely important for all aspects of your health. If you regularly eat
processed or junk food, then you will likely find that your body is lacking in
vitamins which will then make you feel even more tired and put your heart at further
risk. You should aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day and
include a variety of pulses, beans and legumes in your diet. If you suspect
that you’re lacking in vitamins and this is affecting your sleep and health,
you may benefit from taking supplements such as high strength fish oil, but you must check
with your doctor first.

You should avoid
being exposed to artificial light in the hour or two leading up to when you go
to bed. In today’s modern world, a lot of us rely on technology to unwind
before we head to bed, spending hours on our phones or watching TV. You should
also try to get enough natural light during the day, as not only will this
affect your vitamin D intake, which has positive benefits for your body, but
will naturally make you more tired once it begins to get dark in the evenings.

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