We spend approximately one third of our lives tucked up in bed. It's when our body gets to work, forming new memories in the brain and repairing blood vessels around the body. Getting the right amount of quality sleep each night is an essential part of staying heart healthy.
Getting the Right Amount of Sleep
The amount of sleep you need each night depends on your age, lifestyle and genetics. Some people wake up feeling bright and refreshed after just 5 or 6 hours. But for most of us, this is certainly not the case!
Being deprived of sleep can leave you feeling groggy and moody but it also impacts your physical health. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night increases your chances of developing hypertension and chronic heart disease. The less you sleep, the worse these chances become.
Constantly being deprived of sleep can increase CRP (C-Reactive Protein), a chemical that's normally released when arteries around the heart become inflamed. Having high levels of CRP in your blood can increase your risk of having a heart attack. (Aim to get at least 8 hours of good quality, uninterrupted sleep every night
How you sleep might be impacting your heart. A majority of people sleep on their side. Studies have shown that as we get older, we're more likely to sleep on our right side than our left. Why? Some scientists believe that sleeping in this position may put less strain on your heart, as your cardiac blood vessels are under less pressure than when sleeping on your left side. More research is needed to confirm this but it's something to keep in mind.
Melatonin is a hormone that tells our body when to sleep and when to wake up again – it controls the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin starts to be released into your bloodstream in the evenings, helping us get ready for the night of sleep ahead. Having an abnormal sleep routine can interfere with when melatonin is released, making you feel tired during the day and awake in the night.
Getting into a sleep routine could lower your risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease. This often means making some quick and easy changes to your diet and lifestyle. For example;
- Avoid drinking coffee or caffeinated drinks after midday.
- Don't use your phone in bed. Staring at a bright phone screen can stop you falling asleep as light affects how much melatonin your body releases.
- Take it easy in the evenings. Get your exercise and work done during the day.
- Wake up at the same time every day.
- Avoid napping if you can.
- If you can't sleep, get out of bed and move somewhere else. Your brain should associate your bed with sleeping. Only get under the covers when you feel tired enough to drift off.
Of course, a rigid sleep routine isn't always possible. Waking up during the night is a common occurrence, especially as we get older. Getting out of bed before morning can throw our sleep cycle out of balance, raising our blood pressure and heart rate. Try your best to sleep through the entire night and stick to a routine that works best for you.