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In the days following a time change due to daylight saving time, research shows a marked increase in heart attacks and strokes. However, losing sleep anytime can be a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
“Getting a good night’s sleep every night is vital to cardiovascular health,” said Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., FAHA, past volunteer president of the American Heart Association and chair of the department of preventive medicine, the Eileen M. Foell Professor of Heart Research and professor of preventive medicine, medicine and pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “Adults should aim for an average of 7-9 hours and babies and kids need more depending on their age. Unfortunately, we know as many as 1 in 3 people do not get their recommended amount of sleep each night.”
According to Lloyd-Jones, the amount of sleep and quality of sleep are important, and both can have significant impacts on cardiovascular health, as well as overall health. In addition to increasing risk for cardiovascular conditions like heart attack and stroke, lack of sleep may also put people at risk of things like depression, cognitive decline and obesity.
Research in the “Journal of the American Heart Association” shows maintaining a consistent sleep pattern may play an important role in preventing cardiovascular disease. Researchers found falling asleep at different times or sleeping an inconsistent number of hours each night, even variations of more than two hours a night within the same week, were tied to developing hardened arteries, known as atherosclerosis.
“We know people who get adequate sleep manage other health factors better as well, such as weight, blood sugar and blood pressure,” Lloyd-Jones said. “The American Heart Association recently added sleep to the list of factors that support optimal cardiovascular health. We call these Life’s Essential 8 and they include eating a healthy diet, not smoking or vaping, being physically active and getting adequate sleep, along with controlling your blood pressure and maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol and lipids, healthy blood sugar levels and a healthy weight.”
Consider these small changes in daily habits that can make a big difference in sleep quality:
- Make healthy living a habit: Eat a balanced diet, get regular physical activity and manage stress to support a healthier night’s sleep.
- Set the alarm for morning and night: Stick to specific times to go to bed and wake up each day and commit to a consistent sleep schedule as much as possible. Along with a wake-up alarm, try a bedtime alarm to indicate it’s time to start winding down.
- Establish bedtime habits: Once your bedtime alarm goes off, move into a familiar ritual, like brushing your teeth, washing your face or taking a warm bath.
- Relax and unwind: Take a few minutes to destress. Consider reading, journaling, meditating or listening to music to ease into a good night’s rest.
- Take a technology break: A bedroom free of light and technology equates to better sleep, so keep your phone and other devices away from the bed. Try logging off your electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.
Learn more about the importance of sleep for heart health at heart.org.