According to the National Sleep Foundation’s inaugural Sleep Health Index, 45 percent of Americans say that not getting enough sleep or sleeping poorly has affected their daily activities at least once in the past week.
And beyond whether a lack of sleep is ruining your concentration and affecting your work, studies have shown it can also ruin our health. That’s because poor or insufficient sleep has been linked to everything from increased stress and immune system problems to diabetes and cancer.
Being in debt to the Sandman can even result in some serious heart problems since it’s long been known that poor sleep increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.
In fact, here are three ways that researchers have found poor sleep can be detrimental for your heart…
Heart danger triple-threat
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators have discovered how sleep protects against the buildup of arterial plaques that can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
That’s right, thanks to these scientists, you now have free reign to use getting more sleep as an excuse to help keep your blood vessels healthy and protect your heart.
The team subjected mice genetically programmed to develop atherosclerosis to repeated interruptions of their sleep, like what you would experience if your sleep was constantly interrupted due to noise, aching joints or bad dreams.
While there were no changes in weight, cholesterol levels or glucose tolerance, compared to animals that were allowed to sleep normally, the sleep-deprived mice developed larger arterial plaques and had higher levels of inflammatory white blood cells in their blood vessels.
The scientists also found that poor sleep led to a reduction of a hormone called hypocretin, which, when produced by the hypothalamus in adequate amounts during sleep, keeps inflammatory white blood cells in check. But in the sleep-deprived mice, the absence of the hormone allowed those elevated inflammatory cells to go through the roof and accelerated atherosclerosis as well.
“We have discovered that sleep helps to regulate the production in the bone marrow of inflammatory cells and the health of blood vessels and that, conversely, sleep disruption breaks down control of inflammatory cell production, leading to more inflammation and more heart disease,” said Filip Swirski, PhD, of the MGH Center for Systems Biology, senior author of the Nature paper.
So that’s three ways that not getting enough sleep can set your heart up for some real damage. Let me recap… poor sleep can result in:
- Elevated arterial plaque
- Elevated levels of inflammatory cells in blood vessels
- Reduction of the hormone that keeps inflammatory cells in check
Get some shut-eye for your heart’s sake
This means that one of the most important things you can do to avoid heart disease is to get enough sleep.
Adults need seven to nine hours of restful sleep on a daily basis.
To improve your sleep, I recommend avoiding the following:
- Reading on your Kindle or iPad before bed since the backlight can reduce your sleep quality
- Keeping your cell phone in your bedroom since text alerts and notifications can keep you tossing and turning
- Drinking alcohol before bed since it’s associated with difficulty falling asleep and poor sleep quality
Instead, keep your room cool and dark using blackout curtains, invest in a sleep mask to block out all ambient light, and stick to a regular sleep schedule. I also like to use an essential oil diffuser with lavender at bedtime.
It’s easier to prevent heart disease than reverse it. Start now by getting the sleep you need and taking supplements that support your arterial health.
Editor’s notes: Are you feeling unusually tired? You may think this is normal aging, but the problem could be your master hormone. When it’s not working, your risk of age-related diseases skyrockets. To reset what some call “the trigger for all disease,” and live better longer, click here!
- Lack of Sleep is Affecting Americans, Finds the National Sleep Foundation — National Sleep Foundation
- The sleep ‘side effect’ that leads to weight gain, high BP and heart disease — Easy Health Options®
- How to get your best sleep ever — Easy Health Options®
- Why getting enough sleep reduces cardiovascular disease risk — Massachusetts General Hospital