Sleep Your Way to Better Heart Health

Hitting the hay can do much more than leave you feeling refreshed. Sound, quality sleep (7 to 8 hours a night) [2] is connected with reducing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, according to recent research. [1] But getting a good night’s rest isn’t as easy as counting sheep. Lots of things interfere with slumber, and what’s worse, you might unknowingly have some habits that are hampering your sleep. Before you tuck yourself in tonight, check out these six tips for better shut-eye and a healthier heart.

1. Stop drinking coffee by noon.

The caffeine in that cup of joe can stay in your system for more than 8-14 hours -- and some people are more sensitive to its jolt than others. That means if you’re sipping java past noon, the stimulant may still affect you at bedtime. [2, 3]

2. Get some exercise.

Aim to get about 30 to 45 minutes of moderate exercise each day to keep your heart healthy. But know that getting your heart pumping too close to bedtime may make it tougher to fall asleep. A good strategy: Exercise early in the day and then do some gentle stretching or yoga before bed. [3, 4]

3. Power down.

If your pillow time includes checking in on social media, you’ll likely have to update your status to sleepy the next day. The blue wavelengths of light emitted by smartphones, laptops, and tablets suppress melatonin, a hormone that aids in sound sleep, according to a Mayo Clinic study. The fix: Hold the screen at least 14 inches from your face and dim the display. Better yet, give your electronics a rest about a half hour before you plan to turn in for the night. [5, 6]

4. Take a nap.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends taking a brief mid-afternoon nap to improve alertness -- about 20 to 30 minutes is perfect. Taking a siesta could even help your heart. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that napping may help lower the risk of death from heart disease. Just make it before 4 p.m., as nodding off too close to bedtime may make it harder for you to sleep come nightfall. [7]

5. Set the right temperature.

Cooler bedrooms most closely match the body’s natural nighttime decrease in temperature. The sweet zone is between 54 F and 75 F -- any temperature above or below could interrupt sleep, according to researchers. [8]

6. Look for light during the day.

The body’s biological clock is influenced by exposure to sunlight and getting some rays during the day will help regulate your sleeping pattern. For example, opening your curtains first thing in the morning to flood the room with light will help you feel more awake. And doing just the opposite at night will help prep your body for sleep. Block windows and turn any illuminated clocks away from the bed. If you happen to wake during the night, don’t flip on the light switch; you’ll go back to sleep more easily if the room stays dark. [3, 8]

SOURCES:

1. Grandner MASands-Lincoln MRPak VMGarland SN

Sleep duration, cardiovascular disease, and proinflammatory biomarkers.

Nat Sci Sleep. 2013 Jul 22;5:93-107. doi: 10.2147/NSS.S31063. Print 2013.

2. American Academy of Sleep Medicine: Sleep & Caffeine

http://yoursleep.aasmnet.org/Topic.aspx?id=45

Accessed 8/8/2013

3. Harvard Health Publications: Insomnia: Restoring Restful Sleep

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/insomnia-restoring-restful-sleep.htm

Accessed 8/8/2013

4. National Sleep Foundation: Nutrition, Exercise, and Sleep

http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/diet-exercise-and-sleep

Accessed 8/8/2013

5. Sleep Conference 2013: Abstract 532

http://www.journalsleep.org/resources/documents/2013AbstractSupplement.pdf

Accessed 8/8/2013

6. .Are Smartphones Disrupting Your Sleep? Mayo Clinic Study Examines the Question

http://www.mayoclinic.org/news2013-rst/7505.html

Accessed 8/8/2013

7. National Sleep Foundation: Napping

http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/napping

Accessed 8/8/2013

8. National Sleep Foundation: Sleep Environment:

http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/the-sleep-environment

Accessed 8/8/2013