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Your heart likes consistent sleep of six to eight hours daily to rest and repair your vascular system. If you find yourself yawning excessively during the day, you are probably sleep deprived, and you have trouble falling or staying asleep. It is no secret that sleep deprivation significantly impacts cardiovascular health. A study published in BMC Medicine 2023 found that people with regular poor sleep were likely to compromise two or more years of cardiovascular health.

How sleep affects your heart health? 

Poor sleep can hurt your heart in several ways. Sleep regulates stress hormones like cortisol. Besides being the body’s primary stress hormone, cortisol regulates blood pressure, balances blood sugar, helps control the sleep cycle, and contributes to the cardiac system’s function. Cortisol and melatonin work together to maintain sleep and wakefulness. Too little sleep elevates cortisol levels, and higher cortisol levels can cause sleep problems, leading to other issues such as a foggy brain, weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. 

Studies indicate that poor sleep builds up calcium in the arteries, which can put you at risk for heart attack. According to a study published in JAMA (2008), just one hour less of sleep each night increased the risk of calcium build-up in arteries by 33%. The most significant risk of developing changes in the heart’s arteries increased, particularly in people who slept less than six hours per night. 

Getting sufficient sleep is, therefore, vital to keeping your heart healthy. No matter your age, you risk heart disease and stroke without enough sleep. 

Are you getting enough sleep?

  • You have a good sleep quality if you fall asleep within 15-30 minutes after bed. 
  • You have an uninterrupted sleep without disturbances throughout the night. 
  • You sleep the recommended hours of sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults 18-60 get at least 7 hours of sleep every night for optimal health and well-being.
  • You feel energetic and rested after awakening. 

Are you a poor sleeper?

  • Do you find yourself yawning excessively during the day to keep yourself awake? Chronic sleep deprivation can make you sleepy and tired throughout the day.
  • You find it hard to sleep once you get into bed. 
  • You wake up multiple times at night and find it difficult to get back to sleep.
  • You are irritable and unable to focus or make poor food and exercise choices which may be caused by hormone imbalances. 

How to build a consistent sleep schedule

  • Eating large meals or having caffeine can deter you from falling asleep. Avoid these items before bedtime. 
  • Exercising closer to bedtime can keep you at night because exercise causes the release of endorphins that can keep you awake. A 2020 European Journal of Applied Physiology study found that exercising four hours before bed helps to get better sleep. Be mindful of the intensity of your fitness routine to ensure you sleep well throughout the night. A vigorous exercise routine can dampen the odds of a good night’s sleep. 
  • While there is no magical time to sleep, sleeping at the same time every night can help you build a consistent sleep routine. A predictable routine enables you to align better with the circadian rhythm, an internal clock that regulates sleep.
  • Blue light from devices such as TV, tablet, smartphones, or laptop disrupts the release of melatonin in your body. Keep away from all devices at least two hours before sleep. If you enjoy reading a book, opt for hard copies of books.
  • Have a comfortable and relaxed environment that makes you fall asleep. Keep your room at the right temperature and dark. Choose a mattress and bedding that promote better sleep quality. 

While exercise and nutrition are widely recognized as the pillars of a healthy life, sleep is too often overlooked as another critical part that significantly impacts physical health and well-being. 

Consult your doctor if you experience sleep disorder symptoms or have tried such measures and still have trouble sleeping.