Sleep Tight - It's Good for Your Heart
Sleep Tight - It's Good for Your Heart
We all know that sleep is important to our health. But did you know that adults with untreated sleep disorders, and those who chronically deprive themselves of sleep, have an increased risk of hypertension, coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke?
It is estimated that two-thirds of Americans are sleep-deprived. About half of these individuals just plain do not get enough sleep, and the other half have various sleep disorders or health problems that prevent them from getting a restful night’s sleep.
Feeling sleepy? Read on!
9 - 8 - 7 - 6 … or Fewer Hours of Sleep Per Day
About a century ago, Americans got an average of nine hours of sleep. Today, the average American sleeps about seven hours—and about one-third of us try to get by on six hours or less. Yet studies have shown that mental agility improves when we get the right amount of sleep time. Experts say we all need eight hours of sleep per night—and that includes overachievers and type–A personalities!
The Rhythm, Quantity, and Quality of Sleep
As we age, we need less sleep, right? Not! We do tend to sleep less—but we still need as much as we did when we were young adults.
Our bodies have a natural rhythm of daytime waking and nighttime sleeping, called our Circadian rhythm, that is controlled by various hormones. The quantity and quality of our sleep are also controlled by hormones. The quality of our sleep diminishes as we age, because of an imbalance of these hormones. The rhythm and quantity of sleep also diminish as we awaken more frequently during the night with aches and pains, medication needs, bladder problems, and those fluctuating hormones. By age 50 we spend very little of our sleep time in beneficial deep sleep and in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is when we do our dreaming. Frequent wakenings and the changes in REM sleep increase our risk of heart disease.
Monday Morning Heart Attacks
As our hormones wax and wane through the night there is a vulnerable time for our heart. Angina (chest pain), heart attacks, sudden cardiac death, and even strokes occur more frequently in the morning between 4 a.m. and noon, with 10 a.m. being the most dangerous time and Monday being the most frequent day. On Monday morning our chances of having a heart attack increase by 20% over any other day of the week.
Sleep apnea occurs when breathing stops or gets very shallow as you sleep, resulting in pauses of ten seconds or longer. These pauses can occur twenty to thirty times or more every hour, putting tremendous stress on the heart and cardiovascular system. There is a strong association between sleep apnea and hypertension.
Some of the most common signs of sleep apnea are
- loud snoring,
- gaps or irregularities in breathing (usually noted by your bed partner), and
- daytime sleepiness or unrefreshing sleep.
Other symptoms include morning headaches, memory or learning problems, feeling irritable, not being able to concentrate, mood swings, depression, and dry throat.
People with sleep apnea are 23 times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. The good news is that sleep apnea is readily diagnosed and is easily treatable.
Top 10 Tips for a Full Forty Winks
- Avoid drinking beverages that contain caffeine (particularly after noon).
- Avoid fluids three to four hours before bedtime.
- Avoid large meals three to four hours before bedtime.
- Exercise daily for thirty to forty minutes. Try not to exercise two hours before bedtime.
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day (including weekends).
- Relax and calm down for the two hours before your bedtime. Avoid TV violence, news, and disturbing programs.
- Don't go to sleep if you are not tired. If you don't fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and read a boring book until you are tired.
- Reserve your bed for sleep. Try not to watch TV, read, or eat in bed.
- Avoid alcohol before bed. A little alcohol can make you drowsy but too much can wake you up and keep you up into the early hours of the morning.
- Keep bedtime rituals. Brush your teeth, wash your face and hands, put on your pajamas, and be sure your sheets and pillowcases are clean and inviting. Keep your room nice and cool at night.
When Do You Need Professional Help?
"Sleep problems need to be diagnosed and treated," says Anupama Upadya, MD, Medical Director of Bridgeport Hospital’s Center for Sleep Medicine. "If you have any of the symptoms below, you may want to consider being tested."
- If your sleeplessness persists for six months or is seriously affecting your daytime functioning.
- If your have great difficulty staying alert during the day, especially if your daytime sleepiness causes, or comes close to causing, an accident.
- If your sleep is disturbed by breathing difficulties, including loud snoring with long pauses, chest pain, heart burn, leg twitching, or other physical conditions.
- If you need to take medications or supplements in order to sleep.
Bottom line: Don’t take sleep problems lying down. Getting a good night’s sleep is important for the health of your heart!
For a free brochure about Bridgeport Hospital’s Center for Sleep Medicine, call 1-888-357-2396.