Did you know that a good night’s sleep is essential for your heart’s well-being? Scientific research has shown time and time again that getting a full night’s slumber is beneficial for many aspects of your health, including protecting you against heart disease.
Did you also know that heart disease is the second most significant cause of death in Canada after cancer? So, it makes sense to find out more about the link between sleep and heart health.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled five top tips to help you get the most of your eight hours’ shut-eye to safeguard your health and heart.
Tip 1 – Choose a good quality mattress
Comfort is key in getting the sleep that your heart deserves. Start with a good quality mattress made from natural substances, such as Nature’s Embrace organic and toxin-free latex which will distribute your weight evenly and provide a supportive base as you sleep.
The natural structure of latex also allows air to circulate freely, keeping you at just the right temperature to enjoy a restful night.
It’s important to know when to replace your mattress too. Mattresses usually last between five and 10 years. You can tell if it’s time to treat yourself to a new one if you wake up with aches and pains, if you sleep better away from home, or if the surface of your mattress feels uneven or lumpy.
Tip 2 – It’s all about routine
Humans are creatures of habit, and our bodies are designed to sleep at certain times. It’s all to do with the circadian rhythm or body clock. This is our bodies’ natural rhythm that is controlled by a light-sensitive area in the brain, which tells us to go to sleep when it’s dark and wake up when it’s light. Understanding and respecting this rhythm is key to a good night’s sleep.
If your circadian rhythm is out of kilter, then you can reset it by keeping a regular sleep schedule, retiring for the night and rising at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will help to keep you — and your heart — happy and healthy.
Tip 3 – Throw some light on a good night’s sleep
Given that light affects your ability to get a good night’s sleep, it makes sense to limit your exposure to light in the hours before bedtime.
This is especially true of the blue light that is emitted from devices such as smartphones and computers. Studies have found that it disrupts the sleep cycle by stopping melatonin — the sleep hormone — from being released by the body to get it ready for sleep.
Sleep experts say that exposure to light in daytime hours — especially morning light — is what we should aim for to improve the quality of sleep and its restorative powers. Getting outside for a morning walk is a great way to get your light quota for the day. Even if you’re stuck working in an office, you can position your desk near a window so you get at least some natural light.
Tip 4 – Nurture your mental health for good sleep
It’s essential to wind down for the night mentally as well as physically to get the deep, refreshing sleep your heart needs to rest and repair. Calming your mind will get you into the sleep zone, making sure your brain switches off to aid a restful night, free from wakefulness or disturbing dreams.
Build relaxation time into your nighttime routine, aiming for around one hour to unwind before bed. As we’ve seen in the previous tip, switching off your devices is the first step to avoid overstimulation. Instead, opt for soothing activities such as enjoying a warm bubble bath, listening to relaxing music, or meditating. You can also jot down to-do lists, so you aren’t kept awake fretting about all the things you have to achieve the next day.
Tip 5 – Stay fit for heart and sleep health
Keeping fit is good for both your heart and your ability to enjoy a full night’s sleep. If you get regular exercise, you’ll not only fall asleep more quickly but also enjoy a better quality of sleep.
Experts don’t recommend exercising too close to bedtime. This is because physical exertion releases endorphins, the body’s “feel good” hormones that can stimulate the brain. It’s also because exercise raises your core body temperature when your body clock needs cooler temperatures to get ready for sleep.
But if you work exercise into your schedule earlier in the day, you will find that doing at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise will help you fall asleep without tossing and turning, as well as boosting your sleep quality.
Simple ways to safeguard your heart health
Knowing about the link between good sleep and heart health is an essential weapon in combatting cardiovascular disease. In a recent study, a team from the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital studied the sleep cycles of two groups of mice. These mice had already been genetically engineered to develop a condition called atherosclerosis, wherein fatty deposits or plaques build up in the arteries. This can lead to serious conditions such as heart attack and stroke.
One group was allowed uninterrupted sleep, while the other was deliberately disrupted as they slept. The mice deprived of sleep had bigger plaques, double the level of a type of white blood cells that can cause inflammation, and lower levels of hypocretin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. This is just one in several studies on the link between poor quality sleep and poor heart health.
Fortunately, there are lots of simple ways to improve our ability to enjoy good quality sleep. Following this simple guide will pay dividends when it comes to safeguarding your heart and general health and well-being.