It has long been known that getting good sleep is invaluable to your overall health. Poor sleep has been connected to a range of other health problems, such as glaucoma. However, disrupted sleep has now been directly connected to heart disease.
The American Heart Association has added sleep to a list of factors considered essential to heart health. Previously it was accepted that poor sleep influences behaviors that can impact cardiovascular fitness, particularly around diet and exercise. (If you aren’t sleeping well you’ll start craving junk food, and it’s harder to go do some cardio if you haven’t been sleeping through the night.)
But this latest change on the part of the AHA goes beyond, and says sleep is a factor that has a direct impact on cardiovascular health for a few reasons:
- Interrupted sleep patterns leave you at greater risk of developing hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and obesity which can all contribute to heart disease.
- Deep sleep allows the body to go into a sort of “rest and recharge” state where circadian rhythms can be reset, and helps maintain healthy hormone and metabolism levels. In addition, the nervous system can dial down and rest, which can help keep blood pressure lower during the day.
- Deep sleep also appears to be highly correlated with lower arterial blockage, which is directly connected to heart disease. “In a study of nearly 4,000 middle-aged men and women, researchers found more atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by a buildup of fatty plaques in the arteries, in people who slept fewer than six hours a night than in those who got seven to eight hours. The scientists found increased amounts of plaque and in more locations in the participants whose sleep was most fragmented compared with other study participants.”
Bottom line: there are lots of very good reasons to get back to having a good night’s sleep. You can just add this to the list.
- What a Good Night’s Sleep Can Do for Your Heart (WSJ)
- American Heart Association adds sleep to cardiovascular health checklist (American Heart Association)