Getting enough sleep does wonders for your mood, immune system, and even anxiety level, but did you know that sleep is also important for your heart health? It turns out that prioritizing your sleep may be one of the most beneficial things you can do to protect your ticker.

How much sleep should you be getting?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Still, only 48% of the United States population reportedly gets that amount of sleep, with most people are running on 7 hours or less every night.1

It’s not surprising that the sleep patterns of Western populations have gradually declined. Our culture has become busier and more focused on productivity than on disciplined relaxation.

Research shows that not getting enough sleep can lead to much more serious outcomes for your health than just feeling groggy.

How does sleep affect your heart?

It turns out that your heart needs a consistent sleep pattern to function at its best, and that adequate sleep may prevent heart disease.

Studies have shown that sleep deficiency puts you at a higher risk for developing the following conditions over time:1

  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary heart disease and plaque buildup in the arteries
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Arterial stiffness

A large 2018 study among 60,586 adults aged 40 years or older found that both poor sleep quality and not getting enough sleep overall were associated with an increased risk for coronary heart disease.2

A review of 15 medical studies conducted in 2011 looked at the relationship between sleep patterns and heart health among nearly 475,000 people. The researchers found that people who didn’t sleep very much had a 48% increased risk of getting - or dying from - heart disease in a 7-25 year follow up period. They also had a 15% increased risk of having or dying from a stroke in this time frame. Interestingly, people who regularly slept over nine hours per night also experienced an increase in negative heart health effects. Long sleepers had a 38% higher risk of heart disease and a 65% higher risk of stroke.3

Tips for getting more sleep

It appears that sleeping fewer than 6 to 7 hours per night, and perhaps over 9 hours per night, can increase your risk for poor heart health.

If you’re someone who needs help establishing an optimal sleep pattern, below are some things you can try.

Avoid watching television, using your laptop, or staring at your cell phone right before bed. Blue light emitted from electronic screens can keep your brain awake longer and actually disrupt sleep patterns.4

Get into a nighttime routine. This means getting ready for bed at the same time every night, perhaps doing the same things right before bed, and turning out the lights at the same time. Even if you’re not exhausted, a consistent sleep pattern will reset your body clock and you may eventually find yourself getting tired and waking up at the same time every night and morning as a result.

Make yourself comfortable. Dress your bed in sheets and blankets that are cozy, and wear pajamas that breathe. Consider replacing your mattress and pillows if they’re getting old or leaving you with aches and pains.

If you think you may have sleep apnea - a condition in which you unconsciously stop breathing for periods of time throughout the night - speak to your healthcare provider and be properly evaluated.

Adding a product like Ashwamend Plus to your routine, which may help support sleep by easing stress and calming the mind.

Whatever you find works best to prioritize getting a healthy amount of sleep into your life, your heart will thank you.

Yours in Health-
Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
IVL’s Community Registered Dietitian

References

  1. Covassin N, Singh P. Sleep Duration and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Epidemiologic and Experimental Evidence. Sleep Med Clin. 2016;11(1):81–89.
  2. Lao XQ, Liu X, Deng HB, et al. Sleep Quality, Sleep Duration, and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Prospective Cohort Study With 60,586 Adults. J Clin Sleep Med. 2018;14(1):109–117.
  3. Cappuccio FP, Cooper D, D'Elia L, Strazzullo P, Miller MA. Sleep duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Eur Heart J. 2011 Jun;32(12):1484-92.
  4. Shechter A, Kim EW, St-Onge MP, Westwood AJ. Blocking nocturnal blue light for insomnia: A randomized controlled trial. J Psychiatr Res. 2018;96:196–202.