In 1970, the iconic rock band, Chicago, released a single entitled, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” Fast forward to 2018, one might ask, “Does anybody really know how much sleep is needed for long-term wellness?” Time marches on and science is still debating the proper amount of sleep for cardiovascular and overall health maintenance. We do know that science has linked poor sleep with chronic health challenges, including memory and concentration issues, weakened immunity, and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Conversely, research has shown that adequate sleep can strengthen memory, curb inflammation and lower stress, as well as improve mood, spur creativity and support a healthy weight.
Individual sleep requirements are highly variable. As such, health advisors generally recommend that adults strive for an average of seven to nine hours of sleep each night. A new study suggests that sleep duration that is either too short or too long is associated with greater cardiovascular risk factors. Preliminary results from the study, recently published in an online supplement of the journal Sleep Health, suggest that seven may be the magic number when it comes to the relationship between sleep length and long-term cardiovascular health. The study showed that excess heart age appeared to be lowest among adults who reported sleeping an average of seven hours per 24-hour period. Sleeping times less than or greater than seven hours were associated with increased excess heart age, with the highest elevations noted in short sleepers.
Heart age is calculated based on risk factors for heart disease. Common reasons for advanced heart age include normal aging, family history, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking. Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in two men, and two in five women have a heart age five or more years older than their actual age. Those who slept less than seven hours had the highest risk for cardiovascular disease due to the effects of metabolic and endocrine functions, vascular damage, and circadian misalignment. Sleep deprived individuals had higher blood levels of stress hormones, as well as markers of health-damaging inflammation. Researchers also found that those who regularly slept nine or more hours each night had more calcium buildup in their heart artery walls and stiffer leg arteries than those who normally slept seven hours per night.
Research supports protected sleep time for every age group, from children to adolescents, teens and adults. Those who don’t sleep well have greater chances of developing risk factors for poor long-term health, including hypertension, high cholesterol and a higher body mass index. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of mortality worldwide and accounts for one of every three deaths in the U.S. Aside from age and family history, cardiovascular disease is largely preventable through addressing modifiable risk factors. Take steps to reduce cardiovascular risk factors by enjoying a whole food healthy diet, becoming physically active, not smoking and managing weight, as well as lowering blood pressure and controlling blood sugar, if needed. To lower heart age and support overall health, aim for seven hours of healthy sleep each night.
Occasional sleeplessness is normal. Nearly one third of Americans have difficulty falling and staying asleep at some point in their lives. However, when infrequent episodes of insomnia escalate to a regular unhealthy routine, poor sleep habits may be to blame. Basic sleep hygiene strategies can include keeping the bedroom cool, dark and comfortable, as well as establishing routine bed and wake up times. Avoid stimulating activities and eating a heavy meal at least three hours before bed. Begin dimming the lights at least an hour before bed to stimulate melatonin production for a good night’s rest.
To find the right amount of sleep for you, experts suggest going to bed at the same time each night for at least one week, while also setting a wake up alarm for the same time each morning. If you find you are waking before the alarm, you have likely gotten sufficient sleep and could go to bed a bit later if desired. If you sleep past the alarm, it’s a good indication that you require more sleep and need to go to bed earlier.
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Study links short and long sleep durations with excess heart age. https://aasm.org/study-links-short-and-long-sleep-durations-with-excess-heart-age/
How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Heart. https://aasm.org/study-links-short-and-long-sleep-durations-with-excess-heart-age/
Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Obstructive Sleep Apnea: an Update. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5891150/
Getting too little sleep may ‘age’ the heart. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-heart-sleep/getting-too-little-sleep-may-age-the-heart-idUSKBN1KZ1UJ
Short and long sleep durations linked with excess heart age. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180604093121.htm
Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-heart-sleep/getting-too-little-sleep-may-age-the-heart-idUSKBN1KZ1UJ
Heart Age. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heartage/index.html