It’s coming to the end of February, and with that, so too comes a close on heart focused health. We’ve talked about the effects of fish oil supplementation as well as menopause and heart disease. But before we conclude this heartfelt journey, we wanted to talk about one final aspect of heart health, our sleep. This isn’t the first time we’ve covered the importance of sleep. But today, we’re going to discuss the heart health specifics.
How often have you heard someone talk about their “beauty sleep”? And while there are aesthetic effects of getting some good shut-eye, the benefits are much more than skin deep. Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t just important for your day to day energy levels. It is just as critical for your heart health too! And while many of us find pride when bragging about the few hours we sleep, we often forget that sleep isn’t a luxury. Rather, it is critical for good health. That is because it is during sleep that our body goes through numerous repairs.
Health and Lack of Sleep
Adults are encouraged to get roughly 7-9 hours of sleep per night. And those that sleep less than 7 are more likely to say they suffer from some kind of health issue. The most common conditions include heart attack, asthma, and depression. Even further, these issues can raise a person’s risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. These risk factors include:
High Blood Pressure
It is during sleep that our blood pressure lowers and is able to level off. When you suffer from sleep problems, that means you are awake longer. When you’re awake longer, your blood pressure stays higher for a longer amount of time. According to a study done on sleep and hypertension, researchers found, “High blood pressure is one of the leading risks for heart disease and stroke. About 75 million Americans—one in three adults—have high blood pressure”.
Type 2 Diabetes
Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more cases of Type 2 diabetes. In simple terms, diabetes is a disease that causes sugar to build up in the blood. This condition has a number of unpleasant side effects. But the main takeaway is damage to the blood vessels. Blood vessels are what carry oxygen and other nutrients to and from the heart. And the most important blood vessels in the body are arteries and veins. How does sleep play into this body process though? Well, there are actually studies that show that getting enough good sleep may actually help improve blood sugar control!
Weight is often a touchy subject. But for this blog, let’s look at weight from a health perspective only. Insufficient and irregular sleep can lead to unhealthy weight gain. And these effects are shown more in children and teens who need more sleep than adults. But that doesn’t mean adults are out of the clear. Research has shown that not getting enough sleep may affect the part of the brain that controls hunger and stabilizes mood. Just think, your irregular sleep could be the reason you choose a pint of ice cream over let’s say a piece of fruit and taking your dog for a walk.
*Please note that an occasional ice cream indulgence is just fine. But choosing it every single day in conjunction with disrupted sleep may mean health consequences in the future.
Other Possible Negative Effects
Irregular sleep patterns and poor sleep quality have also shown an increased risk for other possible diseases. These include ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, atherosclerosis, and even Alzheimer’s disease. So the next time you contemplate staying up to work on that next big deadline, consider your heart and future health.
What If You Have a Sleep Condition?
Unfortunately, it’s been shown that over time, sleep problems can hurt your heart health. Let’s take a closer look at the two most common sleep conditions:
Sleep apnea is a condition in which the airway is blocked repeatedly during sleep. This blockage is alarming as it causes suffers to stop breathing for shorts amounts of time. This affects how much oxygen your body is receiving while you sleep and how effectively the body is able to repair overnight. This lack of oxygen increases the risk for a number of health problems including high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Sleep apnea is often caused by certain health issues including obesity and heart failure.
Insomnia is the condition in which people have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep. It has been shown that as many as one in two adults experience some level of insomnia during their lifetime. And roughly 1 in 10 have long-lasting insomnia issues. This condition is linked to both high blood pressure and heart disease. And over time, irregular sleep patterns lead to unhealthy habits such as higher stress levels, less motivation to be physically active, and even unhealthy food choices.
How to Get a Better Night’s Rest?
There are a number of things you can try to do to get a better night’s sleep:
Get into a Routine
Do your best to 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. Develop a bedtime routine that starts to wind you down for the night. This could include things like yoga, meditation, or a gratitude practice. And if that’s not quite your speed, simply turn off your devices (or put them on silent facing away from you) and try a quieting activity such as drinking a cup of tea or reading. It’s hard to fall asleep when your brain is still reacting to digital stimulants and artificial light!
Get in Touch with Your Inner Rhythm
More and more research shows the importance of a regular circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is kind of like your 24-hour internal clock. It’s the reason you may feel extra tired after those lunchtime hours. Factors such as lightness and darkness impact your body’s natural rhythm. When the sun sets and darkness ensues, your eyes actually send a signal to the brain that it’s time to feel tired. Your brain then sends another signal for the body to begin releasing melatonin. This is why the circadian rhythm cycle goes hand in hand with the sun’s cycle.
Your circadian rhythm works best when you have regular sleeping habits. Things like jet lag, daylight savings, and even staying up to binge Netflix can disrupt your natural rhythm. As a result, you may feel out of sorts and find it difficult to focus in the following day(s). The good news is that you won’t feel the rise and fall of your circadian rhythm as harshly if you’re caught up on sleep.
Eating Habits and Exercise
As a general rule of thumb, do your best to avoid eating and drinking within the few hours before bedtime. This is especially true of alcohol and foods that are high in fat and sugar. Those foods and drinks tend to spike your glucose level, forcing the body to work on restoring levels instead of healing and recovering.
Also, try to get some kind of physical activity in your day to help tire you out. There are studies that show exercising a few hours before bed may actually keep you awake longer (thank you endorphins). But you may be a person who can adapt to that kind of schedule. Test out different times of working out and see what feels best for you!
Set the Mood
We are all different. And what works best for me to sleep may not necessarily work for you. Experiment and see what helps you get the best nights sleep. For you, that could mean some lavender aromatherapy and a white noise machine. For others, it’s drinking a Sleepy Time tea and a quick bedtime yoga practice. As a constant, make sure your room is dark, at a comfortable temperature, and with as little (or as much) noise as you need to fall asleep.
Chiropractic Care and Sleep
Chiropractic care and wellness adjustments will also help you get the sleep you need. They improve the blood flow in the nervous system and it corrects any misalignments in the spine. These misalignments compress the nerves and cause a lack of communication between the spine and the brain. This can lead to a stress response which puts the body out of balance. And sleeping well becomes challenging. Luckily, this can be easily treated with chiropractic care.
Regular chiropractic care and chiropractic adjustments can solve several problems that may be the cause of sleepless nights such as back pain, breathing problems, and restless leg syndrome. Many people are thrilled with how well their sleep has improved after getting regular chiropractic treatment. Make an appointment in Cranberry today to schedule an introductory chiropractic session. We can discuss your pains and needs as part of my initial chiropractic workup for you as a new patient to our practice!
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.