According to new expert research, you need at least six hours of sleep per night in order to maximize heart health. The study found that poor sleep quality and a chronic lack of sleep can lead to atherosclerosis, which increases your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. This condition is the accumulation of fatty plaque in the arteries. Researchers said that there are many ways to fight heart disease, including a good diet, plenty of exercise, and some medications. However, this study places more emphasis on using sleep as a key weapon to fight the risk of heart disease.
The new research saw Jose Ordovas and a team from the National Centre for Cardiovascular Research in Madrid, Spain use coronary ultrasound and CT scans to track the artery health of almost four thousand adults with an average age of 46, who did not have heart disease at the beginning of the study. Although the study was unable to prove cause and effect, researchers reported that adults who got under six hours sleep per night were almost 30% more likely to be suffering from atherosclerosis than those who got at least six hours.
Caffeine and Alcohol
The study also compared participants who experienced both poor- and high-quality sleep, finding that those who experienced poor-quality sleep, such as frequent awakenings or trouble getting to sleep, were over thirty percent more likely to have atherosclerosis.
In addition, the people who experienced short and poor-quality sleep levels were more likely to consume more caffeine and alcohol. Although many people think that alcohol can induce sleep, there is often a rebound effect. Drinking alcohol often leads to waking up after just a short period of sleep, and difficulty getting back to sleep. And if you do manage to get back to sleep, it’s often poor-quality.
Good Sleep Hygiene
If you are concerned about your quality of sleep and subsequent risk of atherosclerosis, it’s a good idea to start by targeting your sleep habits. Good sleep hygiene includes going to sleep and rising at around the same times every day, keeping the bedroom reserved for sleeping, keeping it free from distractions, and prioritising getting at least six hours of rested sleep.
Researchers found that patients who practiced good sleep hygiene also tended to adopt healthy habits in other areas of their lives, such as staying physically active and making better food choices.
Keep Stress Under Control
If you find that your sleep suffers due to to stress in your daily life, better managing it can help you have enough better-quality sleep every night. In fact, researchers found that those patients who practiced good sleep hygiene and experienced higher quality sleep were also better at managing their stress levels in a healthy manner. If you’re currently under a lot of stress, then it’s undoubtedly going to be affecting your ability to sleep well. Talking therapies, yoga and other forms of exercise such as swimming or running, taking time for yourself to enjoy your hobbies, and keeping a journal are just some of the healthiest ways to deal with stress that might help you experience better sleep.
Although this has not been reported as a part of the aforementioned study, distractions in the bedroom, particularly electronic devices such as televisions, laptops, and smartphones can affect your ability to sleep. Keeping these distractions out of your bedroom is a huge part of good sleep hygiene, and you’ll be surprised at the difference having an electronics-free hour can make before bed.
Other studies have found that the blue light from our electronic devices slows down melatonin production, which is crucial for a good night’s sleep. In turn, those who use their electronics before bed are less likely to experience high-quality sleep and could have difficulty falling asleep, leading to less sleep overall. As a result, they are more likely to be at risk of atherosclerosis.
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In addition to being a very healthy method of dealing with the stress and anxiety that could be keeping you up at night, getting more exercise can directly affect your ability to fall asleep and the quality of sleep that you have. People who exercise on a regular basis are more likely to experience high-quality sleep at night thanks to the effects that exercise has on your body and brain. And, everybody knows that regular exercise is great for your heart health, which can help to counteract the effects of atherosclerosis and reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.