According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, 50 to 70 million American adults either don’t get restful sleep on a regular basis or have a sleeping disorder such as insomnia or sleep apnea. There is a growing amount of evidence indicating a strong connection between mental health, sleep and overall physical health, especially cardiovascular health.
What is healthy sleep and why is it important?
Sleep consists of several stages: light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Healthy sleep involves:
• Getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
• Cycling through all sleep stages uninterrupted, multiple times a night.
Some signs you’ve been sleeping well include feeling refreshed in the morning, having lots of energy during the day, a good mood, and feeling clear-headed. On the other hand, if you’re having trouble getting up in the morning, struggling to focus, experiencing anxiety or depression, and/or feeling sleepy during the day an unhealthy sleep routine may be to blame.
Restorative sleep is essential to your health. In addition to improving learning, memory, and mood, it also strengthens your immune system and supports your cardiovascular health. By the same token, the American Heart Association reports that not getting enough sleep can be dangerous and may even increase your risk of weight gain, diabetes, and mental health issues.
Ongoing sleep deprivation has not only been associated with high blood pressure, a known risk factor for heart disease, it’s also been linked with higher levels of chemicals linked to inflammation. Although it hasn’t been proven that inflammation causes heart disease, higher levels of inflammation are common in people living with the condition.
Tips for better sleep
To help develop healthier sleep patterns, try to:
• Go to bed at around the same time every night and avoid long naps during the day.
• Get sunlight daily. Even if you can’t get outside, open the curtains and let in the light in the morning.
• Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool at night.
• Maintain a healthy diet. Limit alcohol and caffeine intake before going to bed.
• Exercise daily.
• Try to limit stress at night.
If you still have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, talk to your physician. She may recommend other heart-healthy options.
Sources: National Institutes of Health; National Sleep Foundation; American Heart Association; and UC Davis Health