Now, it’s possible that some of you may be wondering what does sleep have to do with the heart. In fact, sleep effects both the heart and the brain. By the way, it has been known for many years that sleep effects both the heart and the brain. But, only recently there is a better understanding of the ways sleep effects them both.
Study in Spain
First, the National Center for Cardiovascular Research in Madrid, Spain conducted detailed studies into sleep and its effect on the heart. Indeed, researchers used coronary 3D heart ultrasound and cardiac CT scans to look at arteries of nearly 4,000 adult employees in one of Spain’s bank. Incidentally, these adults, of average age 46, did not have heart disease when they started to be studied. Also, two-thirds of the adults were men.
As a result of this testing, researchers found that the odds of accumulating fatty plaque in arteries increased when bank employees did not get good sleep. Moreover, the amount of fatty plaque increased significantly in those employees who chronically suffered from inadequate sleep.
By the way, the accumulation of fatty plaque in the arteries is known as atherosclerosis. Meanwhile, this fatty plaque narrows the arteries and makes them stiffer. Unfortunately, atherosclerosis increases the odds of getting a heart attack or stroke when arteries get blocked.
Next, researchers found that those sleeping less than six hours were 27 percent more likely to have body-wide atherosclerosis. Surprisingly, the study found women sleeping more than eight hours a night also had increased risk of body-wide atherosclerosis.
Furthermore, researchers compared adults who woke up frequently or had difficulty falling asleep with those who slept well. And, they found those adults who didn’t sleep well were 34 percent more likely to have body-wide atherosclerosis.
Incidentally, adults who had six hours of good quality sleep fared better. Incidentally, good quality referred to how often an adult woke up during the night. Also, good quality considered how frequently an adult moved during sleep.
So, the study showed the importance of getting seven to eight hours of good sleep for a healthy cardiovascular system. And, the heavy price paid, on their cardiovascular health, by poor quality sleepers or those chronically deprived of restful sleep.
Meanwhile, the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital conducted research to understand the relationship between sleep and fatty plaque. So, they used mice to see how poor sleep caused atherosclerosis.
Accordingly, the sleep cycles of half the mice were repeatedly disrupted. While, the other half slept normally. Meanwhile, after 16 weeks, the sleep-disrupted mice had greater arterial plaque than the mice who slept normally. Furthermore, the sleep-deprived mice had twice the level of white blood cells than mice that slept well. Also, the sleep-deprived mice had lower amounts of the hormone hypocretin.
Incidentally, hypocretin is a hormone made by the brain to regulate sleep and wake states. Moreover, experiments showed that hypocretin suppressed production of white blood cells. Therefore, when hypocretin levels fell, more white bloods cells were produced, which, in turn caused plaques in the arteries.
So, sleep-deprived mice that received hypocretin supplements tended to produce fewer white blood cells. Consequently, they developed smaller amount of plaque in the arteries than mice that weren’t given hypocretin supplements. Therefore, these results suggest that reduced hypocretin generation during disrupted sleep contributes to atherosclerosis.
Now, one way to mitigate the negative effects of insufficient sleep, is napping. By the way, a short, less than 30 minutes, nap promotes alertness, reduces sleep deficits, enhances performance, and learning. Also, some epidemiological studies have even suggested that a short nap decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. On the other hand, like nighttime sleep durations, several studies have shown that a long daytime nap is positively correlated with cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
In addition, the latest study published in the journal Heart, reported that Swiss adults who took one or two daytime naps per week had a lower risk of heart disease and strokes than those who didn’t nap. Seems like, short naps could be a valuable way to relieve stress and compensate for inadequate sleep at night. Consequently, these, short, daytime naps protect heart health. However, adults over 65 were the exception. Now, this may be because these older adults tend to have more health problems and nap for longer amounts of time than the younger adults.
Meanwhile, other potential remedies for insomnia include the following:
- First, avoid alcohol, especially near your bedtime.
- Second, eat dinner earlier in the evening. Also avoid eating heavy, rich foods within two hours of bedtime.
- Third, it’s best to avoid caffeinated beverages at least six hours before bedtime. Also, avoid drinking coffee after two in the afternoon.
- Next, ensure that your bedroom is dark while you are sleeping.
- Also, remove blue light emitting devices like TV, cell phone, tablets, laptops, and others from your bedroom.
- In addition, get a soothing foot massage, because by relaxing your nerves, you may be able to fall asleep sooner.
- Most of all, get a regular dose of exercise.
- Finally, take melatonin when, absolutely, necessary. Moreover, it’s important to avoid taking it regularly. In fact, taking it regularly may cause your brain to stop producing melatonin naturally.
Lastly, if sleeping is still a problem, get help from your medical provider.