Weekend sleep-ins won’t undo sleep deficit heart damage

If you push through your week on far too little sleep, burning the candle at both ends, you’re not alone.

In fact, surveys say that over one-third of adults in the U.S. regularly get less than seven hours of sleep per night, and that results in sleep debt or sleep deficit — the difference between the amount of sleep we need and how much we get.

Sadly, missing out on good sleep can not only leave you at higher risk of Alzheimer’s, but poor sleep is also the common denominator behind obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

“No problem,” you think. “I’ll just catch up on the weekend and all will be good, right?”

That’s a big “nope” according to Penn State researchers who found that no matter how much extra shut-eye you get on Saturday and Sunday, it still can’t make up for the damage of sleeping too little the rest of the week — especially when it comes to your heart.

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Too much of a deficit for the weekend to fix

In their study comparing sleep loss to heart dangers, the team recruited 15 healthy men between the ages of 25 and 35 to participate in an 11-day in-patient sleep study.

For the first three nights, all were allowed to sleep up to 10 hours per night to achieve a baseline sleep level.

And that’s when things got tough…

For the next five nights, the participants’ sleep was restricted to just five hours a night, followed by two recovery nights (think Saturday and Sunday), where they could hit that 10-hour mark again.

Every two hours while the men were awake throughout the study, the researchers measured their resting heart rate and blood pressure.

And sure enough — lack of sleep was bad news for the men’s heart health.

The researchers discovered that for each successive day of the study, their heart rate increased by nearly one beat per minute (BPM), with an average heart rate of 69 BPM on day 1, compared to nearly 78 BPM on the second day of recovery.

Unfortunately, increased heart rate wasn’t the only cardiovascular danger sign the men experienced…

Systolic blood pressure also increased by about 0.5 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) per day, starting out at an average of 116 mmHg and landing at nearly 119.5 mmHg by the end of the recovery period.

“Both heart rate and systolic blood pressure increased with each successive day and did not return to baseline levels by the end of the recovery period,” explained the study’s lead author, David Reichenberger. “So, despite having additional opportunity to rest, by the end of the weekend of the study, their cardiovascular systems still had not recovered.”

In other words, whether it’s work or play that prevents you from getting enough sleep during the week, assuming you can make up for it by sleeping in over the weekend is a big mistake that could cost you the health of your heart.

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Better sleep, better heart

In the last decade, so much research has come out on the direct impact of sleep on our health that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has declared it essential to health — in a special statement endorsed by 25 medical, scientific, patient, and safety organizations.

So if you’re not getting enough sleep during the week, it’s time to find a way to catch more zzz’s.

One way to make falling asleep and staying asleep easier is to drink a couple of ounces of tart cherry juice before bed. A natural source of the sleep hormone melatonin, tart cherry juice has been shown to boost both sleep time and sleep efficiency. To avoid waking up for a trip to the restroom, drink it at least an hour before you plan to hit the sheet.

To rest better, it’s also important to focus on good gut health since gut microbes play a role in the chemical processes in your brain via the gut-brain axis.

Finally, if those tip don’t quite work for you, some experts say to get good sleep, get naked!

Researchers have found that people who sleep naked are more likely to report high-quality sleep at a rate of 53 percent compared to 27 percent for those who slip between the sheets in pajamas.

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Playing catch-up on weekends may not improve cardiovascular cost of sleep loss — ScienceDaily

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.