Sleep is one of the most important components of one’s wellbeing. As one of the pillars of good health, it is often compromised in the fast-paced lifestyles that people are leading in today’s time. As a person falls asleep, many important functions take place in the body such as repair and regeneration, tissue growth, muscle repair, and processing of new information by the brain. Our body and mind experience essential physiological and neurological changes which help a person in feeling refreshed the next day.
Dr. Sibasish Dey, Head of Medical Affairs, South Asia, ResMed, says, “Lack of sleep can lead to many problems in the body including issues with cardiovascular health and overall wellbeing. Poor sleep quality can lead to oxidative stress which leads to atherosclerosis in the walls of blood vessels thus compromising heart health. Many people suffer from lack of sleep due to sleep disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) where there is a repetitive collapse of the upper airway during sleep leading to fragmented sleep and poor sleep quality. It is one of the most common sleep-related breathing disorder.”
The importance of sleep can be gauged by the fact that in 2022, AHA’s “Life essential’s 8” included getting a healthy sleep as one of the steps that people can incorporate to achieve a healthier heart. Therefore, we can see the positive correlation between sleep and cardiovascular health. In order to ensure good heart health, Dr. Dey shares some protocols that people can incorporate in their life:
- Maintaining a regular sleep cycleOur circadian rhythm or biological clock has been a part of our evolutionary process, and sleep is a part of the process. When we tune our body to sleeping at a particular time, we are able to get into sleep mode quickly and so our sleep latency time decreases. Sleeping and waking up at the same time every day is therefore an effective way to promote sound sleep. Acquiring adequate daylight and minimizing sleep interfering stimulants also ensure that you are able to sleep easily.
- Ensuring adequate sleepA seven-hour sleep cycle is usually required for adults to remain in good condition. While on some days one can compromise on the number of hours but consistently sleeping less than the required hours can lead to health issues and exacerbate existing conditions. While the NREM sleep stage helps the heart slow down and recover, REM sleep involves heightened stress and activity. Insufficient sleep can throw these stages off balance and can increase the risk of a heart attack. Since heart health and sleep are related, it is essential to give the body much needed rest at night.
- Ensure healthy nutritional intake and optimum level of physical excursions: Exercise and a nutrient rich food intake is good for the heart. They help in managing weight and lipid profile to remain in an optimum range. Physical activity keeps the body fit and fine apart from also helping you sleep better at night. However, avoid exercise shortly before bedtime. Nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and so on should be part of your regular diet while limiting the intake of processed, refined, and fast food.
- Diagnosing sleep disorders and taking requisite actionPeople who experience typical sleeping problems like obstructive sleep apnea are also far more likely than the general population to experience heart arrhythmias, plaque build-up, heart failure, and coronary artery disease. Therefore, it is essential to diagnosing the disorders and manage them for an improved sleep quality.
- Avoid smokingSmoking increases the formation of plaque in blood vessels thereby ultimately impacting the heart. Secondly, chemicals from smoking may cause the blood to thicken. Hence, it is best to avoid smoking in order to maintain a healthy heart.
- Managing anxiety and stress through relaxation techniquesStress and anxiety cause unnecessary pressure on the heart and also cause difficulty in sleeping. One should try to maintain an optimistic outlook in life and can also resort to meditation and breathing techniques to help alleviate stress.
Leading a healthy and happy life starts with ensuring good health. Therefore, people should prioritize sleep to ensure their cardiovascular health remains in good condition.