Sleep and the Role it Plays in a Healthy Heart

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Sleeping is a vital part of human life, and without sleep, we wouldn’t be able to process information and function. There are many sleep disorders that can affect your overall heart health, and there have been many studies proving that poor sleep can strain the heart. Here we take a deeper look into some common sleeping problems and the role it can play in a healthy heart. 

The Main Problems

Many of us don’t get enough sleep, and this may be down to staying up late before work, working irregular shift patterns, or it may be down to the amount of time we spend on our cell phones. The American Heart Association has discovered that anyone who doesn’t have a regular sleeping pattern (at least 8 hours per night and similar sleeping and waking patterns) is more at risk of heart problems and factors that contribute to heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. 

Stress and Anxiety

Poor sleep is a leading cause of stress and anxiety, and this can often become a vicious circle. Those who struggle to sleep may suffer from stress or anxiety as a result of poor sleep and then struggle to sleep due to this stress. If you aren’t getting the recommended hours of sleep per night that your body needs, stress hormones within your body could increase inflammation, which is a key factor in heart disease. 

Insomnia

Some people suffer from a sleep condition called insomnia, which causes a huge strain on the heart. When you can’t sleep, your body feels drained and it can be harder to carry out normal functions, such as making a meal or brushing your teeth. Those with insomnia will likely have higher blood pressure and may even develop heart disease. Even if you don’t suffer from insomnia, two nights of poor sleep can totally knock your system out. 

Sleep Apnea

If you are constantly waking in the night or find that however much you rest, you don’t feel energized, you should be tested for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that stops the body from breathing for a short time throughout the night. This is often most noticed by partners who sleep beside each other. The heart needs a great supply of oxygen to work effectively, meaning sleep apnea may increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure. If you have reason to believe you have sleep apnea, speak to your doctor immediately. 

Excessive Sleep

While not getting enough sleep can cause havoc with your heart, too much sleep can also have an effect (teenagers, we’re talking to you). If you tend to sleep for over nine hours each night, you could cause calcium buildup within the arteries. This has been linked to strokes and heart attacks, meaning there has never been a better reason to get up to that snoozed alarm. 

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your heart is no longer just beating for one. Due to this, many doctors advise pregnant women to sleep on their left side. When the mother is asleep and laying down, the baby can apply pressure to the large veins that supply the heart with oxygenated blood, which can cause many problems and strain the heart. 

Tips for Sleeping Better

Sleeping should be a priority for a healthy heart. Here are just a few tips for improving your sleeping routine:

  • A regular sleeping pattern is required for your brain and body to switch off at night. Try to sleep and wake at the same time every day. 
  • Exercise regularly, so your body is ready for bed at night time. 
  • Avoid overstimulating the body and mind before bed. Cut down on caffeinated drinks and don’t watch or play anything too violent just before settling down. 
  • Get a new mattress. A quality mattress helps quite a lot with sleep, and you should be replacing your mattress every 7-10 years, or perhaps earlier if you had a cheap mattress when you moved in. 
  • Reduce time on technology before bed. Read a book, listen to music or find a new hobby instead.

Sleep is important for a healthy heart, mind, and body. If you are worried about your sleeping habits, speak to your doctor.