It may sound simple, but just going to sleep is one of the best things that you can do for your health. However, we live in a society in which a good night’s rest isn’t always easy, or even possible. The growing demands of work and family life, not to mention the allure of social media and television, have caused the average citizen’s sleep duration to decrease two hours per night over the last 50 years. While you may know that skimping on sleep makes you feel a little bit drowsy and irritable the next morning, you may not realize exactly how important sleep really is for your health—and your heart.
General Benefits of Sleep
Scientists have spent years determining the exact science behind the importance of sleep, and they’ve come to some important conclusions. Sleep supports the body’s immune system, metabolism, memory, learning, and even creativity. Plus, those with a good night’s sleep are better able to focus, handle stress, maintain a healthy weight, and have a positive outlook on life. Those are some major benefits for simply laying your head on the pillow and closing your eyes! But the most important benefit of all is often overlooked: a good night’s rest keeps your heart healthy, too.
The Link Between Sleep and Heart Health
Regardless of age, weight, and smoking and exercise habits, research indicates that people who don’t sleep enough at night are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. In fact, one study found that of 3,000 adults over the age of 45, those who slept less than six hours per night were twice as likely to suffer from a stroke or heart attack as the participants who typically slept six to eight hours a night.
It is believed that less sleep, or inconsistent sleep, interrupts important biological processes that the body must undertake when at rest. This includes glucose metabolism, blood pressure control, and inflammation management. Without enough sleep, these processes are only partially handled, leading to a buildup of negative health impacts.
In order to maximize the health benefits of time spent catching Zs, try to stick to a regular schedule and limit naps during the day. Don’t go to bed incredibly hungry or too stuffed, and try to create a comforting ritual to help you wind down from the day. After only a few nights of regular sleep, seven to nine hours, you will definitely feel the difference.