According to the CDC, most adults aren’t getting the recommended 7 hours of sleep each night. Not only can this lead to daytime drowsiness that can cause car crashes and mistakes at work, but it can also have a direct effect on your health – particularly your heart. Here are the facts on how good sleep is vital in protecting yourself from heart disease.
How is Sleep Linked to Heart Health?
A recent study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has found that a good night’s rest plays an important role in protecting the circulatory system. During sleep, the brain produces a hormone that helps keep the production of inflammatory cells in the bone marrow under control; if these cells aren’t well-regulated due to the body staying awake too long, they can damage the blood vessels and contribute to atherosclerosis, making heart disease more likely.
Other negative health conditions that can be bad for the heart have been linked to not getting enough sleep:
- Blood pressure levels are at their lowest when the body is asleep; the risk of high blood pressure is increased if you’re awake for too long in a 24-hour period.
- In type II diabetes, sugar buildup in the blood vessels can lead to problems. Sleep helps keep blood sugar levels under control.
- Unhealthy weight gain – and all the health complications associated with it – can be a result of a lack of sleep.
What Sleep Conditions Can Affect My Heart?
If you suffer from insomnia – trouble falling and/or staying asleep – you’ll likely experience higher blood pressure over time. It can also cause higher stress levels, unhealthy dietary habits, and less inclination for physical activity.
Poor quality sleep can also cause problems. A condition known as sleep apnea (which is a possible cause of snoring) occurs when the airway is repeatedly blocked while asleep, causing breathing to repeatedly stop and restart. This can affect the flow of blood throughout the body and make heart failure more likely.
How Can I Improve My Sleep?
Fortunately, there are plenty of habits you can change to make sure you’re getting a good night’s rest. Give yourself a sleep schedule and stick to it; go to bed and get up at the same times every day, even on the weekends. Natural light is a key part of the body’s production of melatonin (the hormone that controls sleep), so make time for a walk during the day, such as at lunchtime; conversely, limit your exposure to artificial light from electronic screens for a few hours before bed, since they can actually suppress melatonin.
If you have doubts about the quality of your rest or suspect you may have sleep apnea, speak with your sleep dentist; they’ll be able to determine if any problems are present and can treat you accordingly. Remember that the effects of a lack of sleep accumulate over time, so don’t delay in getting that good night’s rest!
About the Author
Dr. Mitch Conditt has advanced training in helping patients who suffer from sleep apnea or TMJ disorders. His practice is dedicated to helping people in Fort Worth overcome sleep and jaw pain issues by identifying the source of discomfort and providing what’s needed for a good night’s rest. To schedule an appointment, visit his practice’s website or call (817) 737-5155.