Category Archives: Sleep
When we start a health improvement program, whether diet or exercise or both, we typically only look at one part of the problem – calories in versus calories out. But doing so only takes part of the problem into account. More than just those calories, some factors can affect your heart health directly.
Foremost is sleep. It’s an underappreciated tool for not only our heart health but for our general health as well. Yes, Americans are dramatically sleep-deprived, and the result can be significant. For example, when we spring forward for daylight savings time and we have one hour less of sleep, heart attacks increase by 24% on that day. When we fall back and have that extra hour of sleep, heart attacks drop by 24%. It may seem dramatic, but our hearts and bodies are finely tuned to sleep patterns.
With heart disease as the leading killer of adults, both male and female, in the United States, we must be aware of its consequences and develop ways to prevent it. Of course, improved diet and exercise as well as proper screening is critically important to improving both overall health and the function of your heart. And while our jobs and lives may require it, stress has truly gotten out of control. Indeed, our bodies are naturally programmed to experience stress, just not at the sustained levels that we do today.
Stress is at the core of a very important fight or flight reaction. Prior to the modern comforts that we enjoy, humans needed to escape threats on a regular basis. The fight or flight stress response allowed hormones and chemicals to be released into the body that increased our focus and power to escape the potential harm. Today, that response permeates large swaths of our lives, whether it is at work or at home, due to stress.
Sleep is a critical part of not only staying energized throughout the day but maintaining good general and cardiovascular health. Proper sleep can reduce the risk of obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors that can ultimately lead to heart problems. With such a powerful tool at our disposal, however, it is surprisingly hard to get enough sleep. As a result, most Americans are chronically sleep deprived and risking serious health disorders as a result.
Better sleep can actually happen overnight. Some techniques for better sleep you can start this very evening. Others will take some time to develop good habits.
With increasingly hectic lifestyles that often trigger poor sleep and even sleep disorders, the concept of napping is more important than ever. Have you noticed how, on a long car drive, or on a long flight, even sleeping for 10 to 15 minutes refreshes your body significantly? It’s not just in your head, napping does have significant emotional, physical and psychological benefits that can’t be overlooked.
For some, sleep comes easily, and we remain alert throughout the day. However, for most Americans, sleep can be fleeting, and we simply don’t get enough.
If we were to tell you that one of the most helpful tools to maintain your heart health was free, readily available, and quite literally made every part of your life more productive and enjoyable, we’re pretty sure that you’d jump right on it. Well, the truth is that it does exist; and it’s called sleep. Sleep is critical for continued bodily function and health. While all of us do it, many of us do not get enough of it. The average adult should get between seven and eight hours of sleep. There are some people whose normal sleep patterns require only six hours while others may require more. Each of us is unique. However, when we are deprived of sleep, we increase the risk of several serious diseases that can ultimately affect the heart.
We have been told from the youngest of ages that sleeping well leads to a healthier, more productive life. This is absolutely true. However, as we get older, join the workforce, and begin to experience the stresses of life, there’s often a shift in priorities and we don’t take our sleep as seriously. Instead of being considered a luxury, proper sleep should be considered a protective factor for heart, and general, health.