Since 1996, I’ve been writing about the connection between sleep and cardiovascular health. Then, last year new research findings published in the European Heart Journal underscored just how critical sleep is to your heart.
Researchers examined the sleep habits of 475,000 participants in 15 previous studies. What they found is that a chronic lack of sleep—less than six hours a night—raised the risk of developing or dying from heart disease by 48% and stroke by 15%!
The reason is a lack of sleep decreases your levels of the satiety chemical leptin so you’re more likely to overeat, contributing to obesity and heart disease. Chronically sleeping too little also heightens your sympathetic tone, raising your levels of stress hormones that contribute to heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure.
If you have trouble sleeping, here’s how to ensure a sound night’s rest:
1. Go to bed at about the same time each night, preferably by 10:00 p.m. Going to bed earlier in the evening puts you more in line with your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle.
2. Eat only light snacks after 7:30 p.m. Heavy meals, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar eaten too close to bedtime can make it impossible to fall asleep. If you get hungry in the late evening, have a light “tryptophan” snack—such as a turkey sandwich or glass of warm milk.
3. Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Darkness signals your body to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps you to sleep soundly.
4. Drink a cup of tea that contains valerian or chamomile, both of which help to make you drowsy.
5. Remove all electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) from your bedroom, including televisions, computers and more. EMF’s create chaotic vibrations that interfere with sleep and can lower your sleep-producing melatonin levels. If you must have an electronic clock in your bedroom, keep it at least four feet away from your bed.
Now it’s your turn: Do you have a tip for getting a sound night’s sleep?