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The Impact of Sleep on Heart Health

The better you sleep, the better your heart will be!


 

Cardiovascular health is the next big thing. From low-cholesterol diets to high-intensity workouts, it would seem as if our hearts have never been in better shape. Yet, a crucial aspect of heart health is often overlooked; how many times a day do we find ourselves yawning or complaining about a lack of sleep? It is recommended for teenagers to get around 8-10 hours of sleep, but research shows that the average teenager gets between 6.5-7.5 hours of sleep. Still, what does sleep deprivation have to do with heart health?


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who reported sleeping less than 7 hours a night were more likely to have experienced heart attacks and high blood pressure; the same people were also at an increased risk for other heart-related complications such as heart diseases and strokes. About 1 in 3 Americans, or 75 million people, have high blood pressure, the same statistic that gets less than 7 hours of sleep per night.


Left unresolved, an inconsistent sleep pattern can cause sleep disorders that correlate highly with heart problems. One example of a sleep disorder is insomnia, in which the patient has trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Insomnia is associated closely with heart disease and high blood pressure. While most adults experience short-term insomnia, 10 - 15% of people suffer from chronic insomnia. Sleep deprivation from insomnia can impact one’s ability to function in daily life, leading to fatigue, higher stress levels, unhealthy food choices, and decreased motivation to be productive and physically active. Irregular sleep, directly and indirectly, affects our cardiovascular health not only through high blood pressure but by forcing us to develop unhealthy habits.


So, what can we do to get better sleep? A regular sleep schedule, where one goes to bed and wakes up at the same time, is recommended by the CDC along with avoiding artificial light from technology a few hours before sleeping can massively improve the quality of sleep. It is also recommended to report symptoms of underlying sleep disorders to doctors regularly so that a medical professional can help. Says Susheel Patil, M.D., who is the clinical director at John Hopkins Sleep Medicine, “If you’re not sleeping well, there’s likely a reason, as well as good treatment options.”


Studies, experts, and researchers have all determined that a lack of sleep is extremely harmful to the human body, but can too much sleep also negatively affect us? According to the CDC, too much sleep, defined as 10 hours or more, can lead to depression, chronic diseases, and a large variety of heart illnesses such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and anxiety. Some experts say that getting too much sleep could even be more harmful than getting too little.


In terms of sleep, it’s clear that there needs to be a balance; not too much, not too little. A consistent sleep pattern can go a long way in improving and maintaining heart health. Sleep impacts our heart health, and it’s up to us to decide whether it does so positively or negatively.

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