Blog at a Glance
- February marks Heart Health Awareness Month and this month we are asking you to show your heart some love and take action to prioritise your sleep.
- Sleep deprivation has been linked to numerous heart problems including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attacks, obesity, diabetes, and stroke. 1
- Implementing a consistent morning and evening routine using the examples below can help you start to improve your sleep
- For further support, see our One week to a Better Sleep Programme. This resource will help you assess your sleep, and learn 22 tips for better sleep including how to calm the mind and create your perfect wind-down routine and more. Take it to Heart, Sleep Matters!
With heart disease still the number one cause of death globally, many of us could do more to look after our own heart health and those of our loved ones. While you may be eating well, moving regularly, choosing not to smoke to minimise your risk of heart disease, you may not have considered the importance of sleep.
A growing body of evidence has shown that sleep deprivation (sleeping less than six hours for just one night) or restless sleep can contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, all of which are that are known risk factors for heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and stroke.
Sleeping the recommended 8 hours a night allows our body a chance to restore, recharge and reduce inflammation, a key role in nearly all aspects of physical health especially heart health. Research has shown that individuals that have slept for less than six hours for even just one night have higher blood levels of stress hormones and inflammation. Higher rates of stress and inflammation in the body also weaken our immune system and make us more susceptible to not only heart disease but all viruses and disease.
February is Heart Health Awareness Month and we are asking you to show your heart some love by learning more about the link between your sleep and heart health and taking action to prioritise and improve your sleep.
The Link Between Sleep and Heart Disease
Heart disease is a general term used to describe any type of disorder that affects your heart. It includes conditions that affect your heart’s muscle, valves, blood vessels or rhythm. Heart disease that involves narrowed or blocked blood vessels is also known as ‘cardiovascular disease’. This can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke.
One of the reasons Heart Disease occurs is when plaque from our white blood cells builds up in the arteries, hardening and narrowing the arteries and making it difficult for our heart to pump enough blood and oxygen around our body. This condition is known as atherosclerosis.
Sleep deprivation can further contribute to this due to higher levels of inflammation and white blood cells which can go on to form potential plaques in your arteries. In addition, sleep deprivation can also increase your risk of having high blood pressure, and being overweight. Let’s explore this further.
The Link Between Sleep and Obesity
After a night of restless or insufficient sleep, you may have noticed you feel hungrier are and crave more high-calorie foods. This is because healthy sleep helps to balance our appetite-regulating hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Research has shown when we are sleep deprived we have higher levels of the hormone ghrelin which increases our level of hunger and lower levels of leptin that helps us helps us feel satisfied.3 In addition, insufficient sleep may impair various brain reward systems, including those that help us control our energy intake and the food choices we make. It’s, therefore, no surprise that research has confirmed that a lack of sleep or sleep disturbances can trigger overeating, particularly energy-dense foods (chocolates, muffins, burgers etc.) that can contribute to being overweight which is strongly associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity and stroke.
The Link Between Sleep and Blood Pressure
Many of us are suffering from high blood pressure linked to our stressful modern lives and ‘always on’ culture and high blood pressure is well known to increase our risk of heart disease. During normal, healthy sleep our blood pressure drops on average by 10-20% known as night dipping. When we suffer a night of insufficient or disrupted sleep our blood pressure doesn’t dip and in some cases is elevated. Non-dipping or elevated nighttime blood pressure has been found to increase our risk of stroke and heart attack. It has also been linked to kidney problems and reduced blood flow to the brain. Elevated nighttime blood pressure has been found to be a stronger indicator of heart problems than high blood pressure during the day.
Actions You Can Take To Love Your Heart and Improve Your Sleep
The good news is that there are many simple steps you can take to show your heart some love and improve your sleep. The first step is to create a consistent morning and bedtime routine that supports your bodies’ body clock (circadian rhythm), our master computer responsible for controlling not only your sleep but also your mood and appetite.
A Consistent Morning Routine Could Include:
-Setting your alarm for the same time seven days a week to allow you time for the recommended 8 hours of sleep.
-Eating a predominantly whole food breakfast (fruit and vegetables, eggs, oats or wholegrain toast, fruits, wholegrain toast, eggs, ) as soon after waking as possible
-Exposing your eyes to daylight for at least 15 minutes before 12 pm. Try to open the curtains as soon as you get up and leave your sunglasses off during your morning.
-Making time for physical activity (30 minutes per day), meditation, breathing or mindfulness to help you feel alert, boost your mood and manage your stress and anxiety during your day.
A Consistent Bedtime Routine Could Include:
-Finishing your evening meal at least three hours before bedtime
-Switching off from all devices at least sixty minutes or more before bedtime
-Completing a relaxing, activity such as stretching, meditation, breathing, mindfulness or reading a book (not digital) before bed.
-Going to bed at the same time every evening to give yourself the best chance of sleeping for 8 hours.
For more help to assess your sleep, and learn 22 tips for better sleep including how to create your perfect bedtime routine, see our ‘One week to a Better Sleep Programme’. It’s time to take it to heart, sleep matters!
Published By: Jenny Stewart, SleepDrops
Source: The SleepDrops Research Team
National Institutes of Health (NIH). (2019, March 5). How disrupted sleep may lead to heart disease. Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-disrupted-sleep-may-lead-heart-disease
Spiegel, K., Tasali, E., Penev, P., & Van Cauter, E. (2004). Brief communication: Sleep curtailment in healthy young men is associated with decreased leptin levels, elevated ghrelin levels, and increased hunger and appetite. Annals of internal medicine, 141(11), 846–850.https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-141-11-200412070-00008
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). (n.d.). Overweight and Obesity. Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/overweight-and-obesity