Tips for heart-healthy sleep
There have been times in my life where sleep was last on my list of priorities. I know I’m not alone in that experience. But maybe learning about how sleep affects your heart can be the motivation you need to get those extra, crucial hours of shut-eye. It has been for me.
How sleep impacts your heart
Research shows that frequent or chronic problems with sleep puts our heart at risk for disease. In fact, people with heart disease risk factors are twice as likely to die from a heart attack or stroke if they do not get at least six hours of sleep a night. But making sufficient sleep a priority is important for everyone to prevent heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association (AMA), lack of restful sleep is often caused by sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia and night-waking. These can all create significant risks to your heart health. For example, frequent night-waking increases your risk of having a heart-attack, and is more damaging to the heart than simply having a hard time falling asleep on a regular basis.
When we don’t get enough sleep, we’re also more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of health problems: increased dangerous fat in the abdomen, high blood pressure and insulin resistance. Metabolic syndrome is commonly associated with heart disease.
Finding ways to make sure we get enough deep sleep is one of the best ways we can care for our heart.
Tips for heart-healthy sleep
Luckily, there are many natural remedies for the wide variety of sleeping problems we can all experience. For serious or chronic problems, simply asking your doctor for help can be a good beginning. Sleep clinics and sleep studies are common now, and conditions like apnea and insomnia can be managed with treatment.
Here are some solid tips to establish positive habits to help us fall and stay asleep:
- Exercise: Daily exercise can help tire your body and mind out, preparing you for sleep. Take a daily, vigorous walk, bike ride, or try Pilates or swimming.
- Avoid blue light: The light from your iPad, iPhone and computer activates the “awake” part of your brain. You don’t want to jump from the computer to your bed. It’s best to remove yourself from blue light an hour before you try to sleep.
- Set the mood: Your bedroom should be a place of peace and tranquility. As much as possible, avoid working in your room. Use blinds or even an eye-mask to darken the space before you try falling asleep.
- Establish an evening routine: Adults need sleep routines as much as children do. We need to program our bodies to know when sleep is on its way, and send a message to our subconscious that it’s time to begin relaxing. Enjoying a hot bath, chamomile tea, a good book, a flickering candle – there are many ways to signal to your brain that it’s time to ready for sleep.
- Check your diet: If you’re struggling with deep, restful sleep, take a look at what you’re eating and drinking. During the day, and especially toward the afternoon, pay attention to how much caffeine you have – not only in drinks, but in foods like chocolate. Then, avoid Vitamin B12 and spicy foods close to bedtime. You can try eating a serving of complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat bread before bed. Calcium and magnesium rich foods can also help you get enough deep, REM sleep.
- Sleep aids: Natural remedies for insomnia can be effective for resetting the body clock. If your body isn’t producing sufficient amounts of melatonin, certain foods – such as walnuts and tart cherries – contain melatonin. By supplementing our bodies’ melatonin, we can help reset the timer deep in our brains that signals when it’s time to feel sleepy.
Because sleep is such a crucial part of heart health, it’s important we all find a way to get the necessary amount of quality sleep. I recommend meditation as the perfect way to send your body and mind into a state of relaxation and readiness for restorative sleep. Try this Relaxation Mediation to bring you into a calm and peaceful state before you slip between the sheets.