Summary: The American Heart Association has recently added sleep to its checklist of factors that considerably influence heart health. It means that, like diet, physical activity, body weight, blood lipid profile, having sufficient sleep is also necessary to maintain a healthy heart. New studies show that poor sleep quality can indirectly and directly influence heart health.
Most people know well that obesity, high blood cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure are some of the significant risk factors for heart disease. However, very few realize that sleep disorders can also contribute significantly to poor heart health.
Unlike hypertension and high blood cholesterol, there is far less awareness about the ill effects of inadequate sleep. It means that people may not realize the risks associated with poor quality sleep and continue to neglect it, not taking any measures to improve their sleep quality.
New guidelines by the American Heart Association have added sleep to the cardiovascular health checklist, as researchers realize that it is as important as diet, physical activity, maintaining optimal body weight, blood pressure, and so on.
Sleep is now recognized as a risk factor for many health disorders. Moreover, studies show that sleep issues are on the rise. Thus, a new survey by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine shows that more than half of Americans regularly experience sleep disturbances. Some have trouble falling asleep, and others sleep for fewer hours. Additionally, some wake up too often during the night. Doctors now say that improving sleep quality may be one of the simplest ways of enhancing heart health.
Poor sleep can influence heart health in more than one way. For example, those who sleep less are also more likely to eat high-calorie food or junk food, experience mood swings, and thus develop obesity. Similarly, studies show a higher prevalence of issues like hypertension and type 2 diabetes in those with insufficient sleep. There could be many reasons for such an association, like altered brain health, changes in the nervous system, increased sympathetic activity, and more.
During sleep, every body function slows down thanks to an increase in parasympathetic activity. For example, the parasympathetic nervous system lowers blood pressure, reduces heart rate, and so on. However, when awake, the sympathetic system increases blood pressure and heart rate, blood glucose levels, and more. For example, studies show that thanks to the parasympathetic nervous system activity while sleeping, most people experience a dip of 10% or more in their blood pressure. Researchers call this “nocturnal dip,” which is quite good for the heart. This “nocturnal dip” even helps lower blood pressure during the day. However, such an effect is not seen in less-rested people.
But that is not all, as new studies suggest that poor sleep can negatively impact heart health. It can result in changes in immunity and higher inflammation, thus increasing the risk of developing atherosclerosis.
Researchers say that people need to understand that sleep disorders are not just about insufficient sleep. It is also about disturbed sleep. Even if a person is sleeping for long enough, frequent sleep disturbances may have an adverse impact on heart health. This is explained by the changes in the circadian rhythm.
During rest, people undergo multiple sleep cycles. If sleep is disturbed frequently, it hampers the body’s ability to manage inflammation and perform repair tasks. This increases the risk of chronic health disorders, including heart health issues.
For example, new studies now show that inflammation is one of the early signs of cardiovascular disease. Moreover, it now appears that insufficient sleep or sleep disturbances are among the significant causes of this low-grade inflammation. Moreover, inadequate sleep also elevates stress hormones.
Finally, researchers say that there is increasing evidence of a relationship between the sleep and response of various medical treatments. Thus, for example, studies show that adequate sleep may also boost the efficacy of vaccines. Similarly, those who sleep well also respond better to cancer therapy. Thus, it is quite likely that those who sleep well will benefit more from various medications used to prevent and manage heart diseases. To sum up, researchers say that for a healthy heart, it is vital to have a good night’s sleep.
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