It’s 2 a.m., and you’re sticky and fidgety, your feet between the sheets. You know you have to wake up in five hours, so you start taking deep breaths of the stale air that, even in its stillness, feels like your only friend when you’re struggling to sleep while awake.
Having a restless night of poor sleep is a part of life every now and then. But consistently missing those 7 or so critical hours of shut-eye increases your risk for various mental and physical conditions or symptoms, including those that can affect your heart health.
However, not all of this is necessarily old news. It wasn’t until the summer of 2022 that the American Heart Association added sleep to its list of the top 8 things people should do to improve their cardiovascular health – the general term for how the heart and blood vessels work your.
The good thing about sleep, though, is that there are many ways to improve it. While persistent poor sleep hygiene leaves you more vulnerable to illness, the effects of poor sleep are cumulative, and you can create new sleep-enhancing habits that work for you.
Find out exactly how poor sleep affects your heart health and what you can do about it.
Your blood pressure (and stress level) will likely rise
Over time, lack of sleep can raise your blood pressure. One reason for this, as Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez of the Mayo Clinic explained in a post from the clinic, is that sleep helps the body control hormones needed to manage stress and metabolism.
Research shows that sleep deprivation can increase levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. Too much of it over time can raise blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, the no. 1 cause of death in the US.
This can be a chicken-or-egg scenario for the insomniacs out there, as well as the people whose hearts start pounding when they realize their alarm will go off in just a few hours. You may be stressing about sleep because you can’t get enough of it, which snowballs from acute stress into a long-term state of stress.
If you’re looking for more tips for getting some shut-eye, check out this five-minute “to-do list” hack that helped one of CNET’s editors deal with his insomnia.
Over time, you may have a higher risk of heart attack or stroke
Because poor sleep can contribute to high blood pressure, which harms cardiovascular health, it makes sense that poor sleep has also been linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular events, such as stroke or heart attack.
A newer study from this year found a link between insomnia and sleeping five or fewer hours and an increased risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Fatigue can lead to other harmful (but not irreversible) habits
Poor sleep before the next day’s workout can affect your exercise by making it feel harder, possibly more painful, and less fun overall. Of course, feeling too tired to exercise means you’ll do it less often, and you shouldn’t push it if your body needs rest. But over time, lack of physical activity caused by poor sleep (or anything else) can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In fact, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your heart health, and it doesn’t have to be a full workout every time. Physical activity can lower your blood pressure, as well as help you manage cholesterol, blood sugar, and other factors.
Because sleep deprivation also affects our body’s hormones, your appetite can be affected as well.
As Rebecca Stetzer, a registered dietitian, explained in a post for Gundersen Health System, the hormones that regulate hunger will be disrupted after poor sleep and may cause you to crave foods high in sugar, fat, or sodium more often than usual. the normal. This means you may be feeling so exhausted that you’re looking for the quickest — and often sugary — snack to give you the energy you need.
Like lack of exercise, diets that are too high in sugar or sodium relative to the other nutrients our bodies need can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In general, getting enough sleep is one part of your heart health, but it’s important. Along with your physical activity levels, how many nutrients you eat, lifestyle factors like smoking, and whether you can check in every now and then for a doctor’s visit, sleep shows how healthy your heart is.
But daily routines like diet and exercise are never permanent — you can modify them as you like at any time or whenever you can. Here are some more tips to get your sleep right and what you need to know about getting screened for heart disease.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health advice or medical assistance. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.