Sleep plays an important role in maintaining a healthy heart

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Most of us are aware that proper nutrition, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight play a key role in heart health, but what about sleep?

Proper sleep habits are paramount to a healthy heart. Not getting enough sleep as well as getting too much sleep, increases your risk of mortality significantly.

In addition, getting good quality sleep is equally as important.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than one in three American adults say they don’t get the recommended amount of sleep, which is seven-eight hours per night.

The American Heart Association states that, an irregular sleep pattern (one that varies from the seven to nine hours nightly) is linked to a host of cardiovascular risks, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary artery disease.

Adults that are not getting the recommended hours of sleep on most nights may have higher levels of stress hormones, which may can trigger anxiety and increase inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a key player in cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, sleep apnea (when you stop breathing for short amounts of time) affects how much oxygen your body gets while you sleep. This lack of oxygen increases your risk for high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

Insomnia (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep) is also linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. Even one or two nights of insufficient sleep can affect your system.

On the other hand, there is some evidence that getting too much sleep also plays a role in heart problems. Getting too much sleep (more than nine hours per night) can cause calcium buildup in the artery walls leading to heart failure and stroke.

As we age, our sleep patterns change. Many older adults have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep. We also spend less time in a deep sleep which can cause us to wake more often. This can be for a variety of reasons, including the need to use the restroom, taking certain medications, anxiety, discomfort, or pain from other medical problems.

Below are seven tips to help you get better sleep:

• Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.

• Do not take naps during the day.

• Get enough physical activity during the day. Try not to exercise within a few hours of bedtime.

• Avoid stimulants such as caffeine (coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate) for at least three or four hours before bed.

• Avoid too much stimulation, such as violent TV shows or computer games before sleep.

• Avoid artificial light, especially within a few hours of bedtime. Use a blue light filter on your computer or smartphone.

• Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.

Sleep plays a key role in good overall health, maintaining healthy brain function, weight control, energy, immune function, emotional stability, heart health and so much more.

Make sleep a priority starting today!

Teri Elkins is a certified health education specialist, certified health coach and the health and wellness coordinator for Sun Health Wellness.

sleep, health

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