In 2022, the American Heart Association revised its “Life’s Simple 7” list to include sleep, which is now referred to as “Life’s Essential 8”. This list shows the main factors for supporting cardiovascular health, which can lower an individual’s risk for many conditions like heart disease, strokes, and other health complications.
With their latest revision, the AHA is showing that sleep plays an important role in our overall heart health. Their experts recommend adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night to help support the healing of cells, tissues, and blood vessels, improved mood and energy, better brain function, and other benefits.
Aside from these direct recommendations by the AHA, recent studies have found a link between sleep patterns and heart health, illustrating the key influence that rest plays on our cardiovascular systems.
How Does Being a “Night Owl” Impact Heart Health?
A recent report published in the journal Sleep Medicineshows a link between staying up very late and certain heart health risk factors.
More specifically, the study done by the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy in Swedenfound that “night owls” are twice as likely as “early birds” to have atherosclerosis or hardened arteries. Importantly, the study’s researchers accounted for other factors like cholesterol, weight, exercise, stress, smoking, and blood pressure.
The study analyzed about 800 men and women between the ages of 50 and 64, sorting them into five different groups based on their “chronotype”, which is a person’s natural preference for when to go to sleep.
Two out of five, or 40% of those who stay up very late had severely hardened arteries. This compares to just 22% of those who wake up early.
The researchers note that past research has shown a link between people who stay up late and poor heart health, though this is the first one to directly tie a person’s circadian rhythm to artery calcification.
Tips for Improving Your Sleep Hygiene
Getting to bed earlier and sleeping more hours each night for better heart health seems easy enough in theory. But, in practice, this can be much more challenging to accomplish and lead to endless nights of tossing and turning.
According to the CDC, adults who get less than seven hours of sleep are more likely to report health problems like asthma, depression, and heart attacks. So, although it takes some work to get into a healthy sleep routine, it can provide important benefits to your heart and overall health.
Here are some of the suggestions the AHA recommends for better sleep hygiene:
- Stay away from your devices at night: While easier said than done, try to store/charge your phone each night away from where you sleep. This will help eliminate the temptation of getting on your phone when you should be getting rest. If necessary, download an app-blocking app that bars you from using certain applications after a certain time each night.
- Keep a regular routine: Try to go to bed at around the same time each night to get your body in the habit of getting to bed at a good time. Set an alarm if needed to remind yourself when it’s time to go to sleep.
- Avoid blue light exposure: If you can, steer clear of blue light at night and dim your phone or other electronic devices if you need to use them. Blue light can disrupt your circadian rhythm and melatonin production, making it harder for you to fall asleep.