We’ve all been there – we didn’t get enough sleep the night before, and then the next day are tired, unfocused, cranky, and slugging through the day. Sleep can impact a multitude of things, but it can also affect our health. Did you know that adequate sleep is an important part of heart health? 

How Does Sleep Affect the Heart?

Studies have found that getting enough sleep helps manage blood pressure, improves blood sugar, and even regulates part of the brain that controls hunger (CDC). This can help with the management and prevention of hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and obesity. Adequate sleep can benefit heart health more indirectly by encouraging healthier behaviors. The more rested we are, the easier it is to make mindful choices about sleep, exercise, stress, and many other habits.  

Serious sleep conditions like Sleep Apnea and Insomnia can greatly hinder heart health and need immediate attention. Sleep apnea occurs when a blockage in the airway causes you to stop breathing for short periods during sleep. This affects how much oxygen is getting to your body and can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Insomnia is considered trouble with falling or staying asleep. Long-term insomnia raises the risk of higher blood pressure and heart disease. It can also encourage poor health habits with food choices and decreased activity. If you suspect any sleep conditions such as these, you should talk with your doctor right away. Together you can formulate a plan to manage these conditions and sleep better.

How Much Sleep is Recommended?

The CDC recommends that adults should get between six and eight hours of sleep each day. The exact amount can vary for everyone, and children typically need more sleep than adults. Too little or too much sleep can have negative impacts on health. Along with the amount of sleep, it is just as important to consider the quality of sleep. According to the American Heart Association, an appropriate amount of quality sleep benefits the heart as well as mental health, the immune system, breathing, and stress management. 

Tips for Better Sleep

Regular Physical Activity. Participating in regular activity and exercise does wonders for the heart, but it can also help your body sleep better at night. If you’re engaging in higher intensity exercise, try completing it at least an hour before bedtime. Relaxing activities like yoga and stretching are a great way to prepare your body for rest. 

Rethink Your Drink. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake when consumed too close to bedtime. Be mindful of when and how much as you’re sipping on pop or coffee. Limiting alcohol can also help you stay asleep better. While a glass of red wine in the evening might make you feel drowsy, it can hinder the quality of sleep you get. 

Create a Bedtime Routine. A consistent bedtime routine allows your mind and body to prepare for sleep. Even if you only have a few minutes before bed, try choosing relaxing activities like listening to calming music, stretching, or reading a book. 

Limit Screen Time. Turn off your TV, computer, and phone screens at least a half-hour before bed. The Cleveland Clinic states, “studies show that the mental stimulation and blue light from these devices makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.” 

Talk to Your Doctor. You should follow up with your doctor if sleep problems persist or you’re having difficulty staying awake the following day. A doctor may need to evaluate your sleep or discuss the underlying causes of issues. They can be a great resource for getting your sleep habits back on track.

Take small steps to make sleep a priority each day. Your heart will thank you!

Written by BWS Lead Health Coach- Kelly Schlather, BS, ASCM – CEP