“Busy” is the new black, and it often cuts into our sleep time. Our heart can’t verbally remind us that it needs the rest, so it begins to decline in performance if we join #teamnosleep for too long.
The heart is always working, pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood daily-even when we sleep. But when we get much-needed rest, so does our heart. Just like the brain, the heart doesn’t completely "shut off," as it plays a key role in keeping us alive. However, our heart rate and blood pressure goes down throughout most of the night, inching up as wake-up time approaches. Enjoying the right amount of sleep—not too little, not too much—decreases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and even diabetes.
It is a misconception that children and teens can function on less than recommended sleep because they’re young and healthy. On the contrary, research for the National Sleep Foundation has shown that teens who don’t sleep well—whether due to sleep apnea or lifestyle choices—have higher cholesterol levels, body mass index, and blood pressure.
What You Can Do
First, make sure you’re getting an appropriate amount of sleep for your age bracket. These numbers are based on individuals in good health:
* Children ages 2–11: 9 to 11 hours
* Teens: 8 to 10 hours
* Adults ages 18-64: 7 to 9 hours
* Seniors age 65+: 7 to 8 hours
Healthy lifestyle choices such as regular exercise; a diet low in cholesterol, high in fiber and low in sodium; and proper hydration can help you enjoy a full night’s sleep.
In addition to adjusting your lifestyle choices, here are a few tips to help you sleep better:
1. Watch what you eat before going to bed. Avoid eating or drinking at least an hour prior to going to bed. Waking up to use the bathroom or from indigestion requires your heart rate to increase, which interrupts your sleep. While dessert and coffee after dinner are tempting, sugar and caffeine can keep you awake past your bedtime, so it is best to avoid them. Finally, try adding foods that contain sleep-inducing tryptophan (which can be found in an array of foods such as nuts, seeds, beans, and oats).
2. Try a sleep-monitoring app. Even if you are getting enough hours of sleep, you may wake up feeling tired because of poor sleep quality. Apps such as Sleep Cycle monitor your sleep throughout the night and help you gather data such as lengths of REM sleep or the amount of snoring, which may be an indicator of bigger health issues that may also be affecting your heart.
Preventive measures such as these, as well as regular checkups, can help prevent the need for treatment. Schedule your annual checkup with us today.