Diet and exercise may be the first things that come to mind when you think about taking care of your heart. However, what you do overnight counts too. Experts have been aware of a link between sleep apnea and high blood pressure for many years. Now, ongoing research is discovering similar interactions related to insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Sleep deficiencies can contribute to many heart conditions, and heart troubles can make it difficult to sleep.
Understanding How Sleep Affects Your Heart
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one third of adults get less than the minimum recommendation of 7 hours of sleep each night, adding to their risk for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
What does that mean for you?
Count your hours. Most adults need to aim for 7 to 8 hours nightly. Lack of sleep can disrupt your hormones and cause calcium buildup and other changes in your arteries. On the other hand, excessive sleep of more than 9 hours is associated with higher health risks as well.
Minimize disruptions. Even if you go to bed early, frequent interruptions can keep you from enjoying the four essential stages of sleep. The deeper stages of non-rapid eye movement sleep are especially beneficial for your heart. Continuous sleep keeps your heart rate from spiking each time you wake up.
Reduce sleep apnea. If you snore and feel tired during the day, you may have sleep apnea. This disorder causes you to stop breathing intermittently while you’re asleep, putting you at greater risk for heart attack, stroke, and atrial fibrillation.
Watch your blood pressure. Your heart slows down, and your blood pressure drops while you sleep. This nocturnal dipping gives your body a chance to heal from daily stress. Without this time off, you’re more vulnerable to hypertension and other issues.
Manage diabetes. Elevated blood sugar can harm your blood vessels. Sleep helps to stabilize blood glucose, lowering your risk for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
Lose weight. Do you crave fattening foods after a restless night? Studies show that lack of sleep may throw your hunger hormones out of balance and make you want to overeat. Excess pounds increase inflammation and strain your heart, especially if they settle down around your midsection.