You know that what you eat, how often you exercise and whether or not you smoke affects your heart’s health — but did you know the amount of sleep you get each night may also play a role?
In a recent study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers found that the quality and duration of sleep may be associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Specifically, sleeping fewer than six hours a night can result in an increased risk of plaque buildup or clogged arteries.
“We know that plaque buildup is connected to smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and an unhealthy diet,” says Dr. James Kim, a cardiologist affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “However, it could also be related to inadequate sleep.”
Other health conditions linked to lack of sleep include:
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
The study serves as a reminder that sleep is critical to good health, as it helps the body repair itself. The current recommendation for U.S. adults is at least seven hours of sleep each night.
“Specific to the study, we saw two factors addressed that can inhibit our ability to get a restful night’s sleep: caffeine and alcohol,” Dr. Kim says. “Stimulants such as these make it more difficult for our bodies to allow quality, uninterrupted sleep.”
Ways to improve our sleep include:
- Avoiding TV or other screen time at least 30 minutes before bed
- Limiting caffeine or alcohol at least four hours before bed
- Sticking to a regular sleep schedule, including on weekends
- Getting regular exercise
- Keeping your bedroom cool, dark and quiet
If consistent nights of poor sleep are affecting your quality of life or daytime functioning, it’s time to see your doctor.
For the news media: To speak with Dr. Kim about the effect sleep has on heart health, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.