Exercise and eating nutritious foods aren’t the only things that can help increase heart health; sleep is also a factor. The better night’s sleep you get, the healthier your heart will be. According to a 2011 study by the American Heart Association, poor sleep quality is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, a potential cause of heart disease.
“Our study shows for the first time that poor quality sleep puts individuals at significantly increased risk of developing high blood pressure,” said Susan Redline, M.D., the study’s co-author, in a statement.
Recommended amount of sleep
So how much sleep is the right amount? Lundberg is hesitant to put an exact number on it. She says it varies from person to person, but that most people need seven hours per night. When we are young, we need more than that. As we grow older, we may need less, she says. According to the American Heart Association, studies have found that most people need six to eight hours of sleep each day and that too little or too much can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.
Negative effects of sleep deprivation
The heart is significantly impacted when the body doesn’t get enough sleep. As Dr. Gina Lundberg, clinical director of Emory Women’s Heart Center, says, “People who are sleep deprived have slower metabolism and more difficulty losing weight. They also have the effect of not wanting to exercise or participate in other healthy habits.”
Positive effects of good sleep
The positive effects of a good sleep are immediately evident when we wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. Beyond just feeling good, Lundberg explains the solid benefits to our bodies. “The positive effect of sleep is not just on your heart health but also on your stress hormones, your immune system, your breathing, and your mental status,” she says.
“People who get seven to eight hours of sleep have more alertness and better focus. They have less depression and anxiety. Getting a good night’s sleep has a positive impact on your metabolism and weight loss benefits.”
Issues for menopausal women
As women’s’ bodies go through menopause, sometimes their sleep is affected. This, Lundberg says, is often due to hot flashes and night sweats. “Some is due to changes in their activity level and metabolism,” she adds. “Many women complain of the inability to fall asleep and many others complain of the inability to stay asleep.”
How to improve your sleep habits
Do you suffer for a lack of restful sleep? If so, there several things you can do to improve your situation.
- Exercise: Try getting adequate exercise. According to the American Heart Association’s 2013 exercise standards, it is important to schedule in 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise at least three to four times per week.
- Avoid excess caffeine: Avoid excess stimulants, such as caffeine, particularly before bed as they may keep you awake.
- Establish an evening routine: “Have an evening routine of preparing for bed that includes turning off electronic devices and having soothing activities such as a hot shower or bath,” recommends Lundberg. “Drinking chamomile or herbal sleepy-time tea can also be helpful, as can reading, praying or meditating.”