Researchers continue to unravel the connection between sleep and cardiovascular health—a connection I’ve been writing about for over two decades. A new study just published in the journal Scientific Reports found that sleep deprivation leads to changes in genes that are responsible for regulating cholesterol levels.
Of course, I don't believe cholesterol to be the true cause of heart disease. But it is important to have the right balance between HDL and LDL cholesterol to maintain optimal cardiovascular health, and this study showed that participants who experienced sleep deprivation had lower HDL cholesterol—the type of cholesterol that is helpful for removing excess cholesterol from your system—than those who had sufficient sleep.
Findings published in the European Heart Journal further underscore 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.
Here's How to Get a Sound Night's Sleep
- 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.
- Eat only light snacks after 7:30 p.m. Heavy meals, alcohol, and caffeine 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 turkey or a glass of warm milk.
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Darkness signals your body to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps you to sleep soundly.
- Drink a cup of tea that contains valerian or chamomile, both of which help to make you drowsy.
- 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?