Heart Health: How Sleep can Help

How much sleep do you get per night? In a national study by the American College of Cardiology in Chicago, it showed that those who had less than six hours sleep per night were at increased risk of having congestive heart failure or suffering a stroke. Other studies have shown that conversely, those who sleep more than eight hours are also at higher risk of heart health problems.

It appears that the correct amount of sleep is essential for good health. It aids the memory, supports a healthy immune system, fights inflammation and keeps the cardiovascular system in good shape. 

Why the Body Needs Sufficient Sleep

This new study on sleep and heart health is backed up by similar research which shows that getting six to eight hours sleep is the best way to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease over the long-term. People getting less than five hours sleep on a regular basis have a 40 percent greater risk of life-threatening heart disease.

Those who are surviving on less sleep trigger the part of their nervous system which releases stress hormones as part of nature’s “fight or flight” response to danger. The high levels of stress hormones raise blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar which all put a strain on the heart. Fatigue has been shown to raise fibrogen levels which are intended as a blood-clotting protein. This can significantly reduce blood flow to the brain and heart.

Other side effects connected to sleep deprivation include glucose intolerance, increased cortisol levels, higher blood pressure and increased inflammation. During the hours of sleep the body repairs damaged tissue and produces necessary hormones. Sleep also aids the memory. If proof is needed, we all know that we can perform new skills better after a good night’s sleep than if we spent the time awake. 

Although most people simply need to establish a sensible pattern for sleep, those who suffer from sleep apnea, have a new baby or a stressful job may not find it easy to maintain those precious sleep hours. However, being aware of the damage on long-term health due to a lack of sleep should be a timely prompt to address the problem. 

Can Too Much Sleep be Harmful?
 
Some studies suggest that too much sleep can also be associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease and angina. This may be because those who are suffering from depression sleep longer and tend not to take regular exercise, thereby increasing the risk to heart health.
 
In summary, the results of a number of studies since 1980 have been compiled by the European Heart Journal to show that too much or too little sleep can both raise the risk of suffering from either a stroke or coronary heart disease. It seems that the optimum sleep required for heart health is six to eight hours and more or less can be damaging to heart health in the long term. 

Sources:
http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20573185,00.html
http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/ACC/31874
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/03/25/sleep-your-way-to-better-heart-health/

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