Sleep for Vascular Health: Are you getting too much or too little?

Everyone understands the importance of getting a good quality sleep each night, but you may not understand the exact impact it has on, not only your overall health, but also your vascular health. Sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain, depression, high blood pressure and diabetes. It also affects your immune function and your body’s ability to regulate your hormones. Now, a number of these side effects are also risk factors for vascular disease[1].

But, did you know that you can also have too much sleep?

Research presented at ESC Congress 2018 in Munich showed that getting too much sleep, specifically over 8 hours, puts you at greater risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD) and stroke[2].

A study conducted at the Onassis Cardiac Research Centre in Athens, Greece, found that 6-8 hours of sleep each night is the optimal range for vascular health. Sleeping more than 9 hours is associated with an increased risk of CAD and stroke at 33%, compared to optimal range, and 11% for those sleeping less than 6 hours compared to optimal range[2].

Results were gathered by combining the outcomes of 11 studies conducted in the past five years on the same topic which, together, involved more than one million adults without cardiovascular disease. Participants were then divided into two groups: one group for those who sleep less than 6 hours and one for those who sleep more than 8 hours[2].

The researchers have stressed a need to conduct further research to explain the connection between sleep and vascular disease. However, the study’s author, Dr Epameinondas Fountas, expects it is due to the influence sleep has on some of the biological factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as blood pressure[2]. Getting less than the recommended amount of sleep is linked to high blood pressure, a well-known risk factor for CVD[3].

The researchers also nodded to the difference between occasional and regular, highlighting that the odd lie-in won’t do any harm but the problem is when long and short sleeps become habitual[2]. In fact, a recent study at the University of California suggests that using your weekend to sleep in can minimise the increased risk of diabetes caused by a week of sleep deprivation[4].

Modern lifestyles can disrupt sleep patterns, so it’s important to be aware of the impact sleep has on your overall wellbeing, including your vascular health.

Getting the right amount of sleep

Of course, we can set our alarms earlier to stop ourselves from oversleeping, but it can be difficult getting the right amount of sleep if you struggle to get to sleep in the first place! Here are some things you can do to help prioritise your sleep[5]:

  • Consistency: Keep your bedtime and wake-up time consistent, helping to regulate your body clock so that you can fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep.
  • Avoid blue light before bed: Stay away from the blue light of your electronic screens, which has been shown to cause your brain to think it’s still daytime, for 2-3 hours before you go to sleep[6].
  • Routine: Establish a bedtime routine to let your body know when it’s time to start winding down. Consider a routine that avoids screens such as reading a book or having a relaxing cup of herbal tea.
  • Don’t nap: It may help you get through the day but, ultimately, it will only make dozing off at night more difficult.
  • Daily exercise: Generally, you should aim to exercise for 30 minutes each day[7] but even just 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can improve the quality of your sleep, especially if you make a routine of it[8].
  • Comfort: Keep your bedroom cool, free of noise and have a comfortable mattress to help you relax into sleep[9].

For more information on protecting your vascular health, visit here.

 


[1] Mayo Clinic. Sleep: The foundation for healthy habits. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep-the-foundation-for-healthy-habits/art-20270117 Accessed September 2018.
[2] ESC. Finding the sweet spot of a good night’s sleep: not too long and not too short. Available at: https://www.escardio.org/The-ESC/Press-Office/Press-releases/Finding-the-sweet-spot-of-a-good-night-s-sleep-not-too-long-and-not-too-short Accessed September 2018.
[3] AHA. Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease, Stroke. Available at: http://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/sleep-apnea-and-heart-disease-stroke Accessed September 2018.
[4] American Diabetes Association. Two Nights of Recovery Sleep Reverses the Effects of Short-term Sleep Restriction on Diabetes Risk. Available at: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2015/12/17/dc15-2214 Accessed September 2018.
[5] National Sleep Foundation. Healthy Sleep Tips. Available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips Accessed September 2018.
[6] Harvard Medical School. Blue light has a dark side. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side Accessed September 2018.
[7] Mayo Clinic. How much should the average adult exercise every day?. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20057916 Accessed September 2018.
[8] Sleep.org. How Exercise Affects Sleep. Available at: https://sleep.org/articles/exercise-affects-sleep/ Accessed September 2018.
[9] Sleep.org. Tips to Design an Ideal Bedroom Straight from an Interior Designer. Available at: https://sleep.org/articles/design-the-perfect-bedroom/ Accessed September 2018.

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