A healthy sleep cycle is important for whole body health, but how exactly do your sleeping patterns contribute to your heart health? According to the National Sleep Foundation, individuals who do not get enough sleep are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, regardless of their lifestyle, age, weight, or smoking habits. A lack of sleep can exacerbate health issues such as blood pressure, inflammation, and glucose metabolism. Without extended rest, the body does not have a chance to lower blood pressure and heart rate for an extended amount of time, which can compromise health and contribute to severe issues such as congestive heart failure.  

Along with exercise and diet, quality of sleep is becoming a well-known contributor to heart health. According to a study by the American Heart Association, poor sleep quality is associated with high blood pressure, an indicator of potential heart disease. The following tips and tricks can help you maintain a healthy sleep cycle and a healthy heart.

Standardize Your Bed Time and Your Morning Alarm

Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day can help condition your body into a habit of winding down and waking up on a consistent routine. Choose a time of the night when you normally begin to feel tired, and try to get enough sleep that you are not inclined to hit the snooze button when your alarm goes off in the morning. Keeping this pattern consistent is the most beneficial — and most difficult — part of maintaining a consistent sleep cycle. If possible, try to avoid sleeping in; if you find yourself at the end of the week with a large sleep deficit that you must recoup on Saturday morning, consider adding more sleep into your weekday schedule.

Nap Carefully

Napping is a great way to catch up on an unanticipated bout of missed sleep, but should be used correctly. If you are regularly tossing and turning during the night and napping during the day, you may be compromising a good night’s sleep and might want to consider limiting the length of your daily naps, or skip them altogether.

Darken the Drapes

Light can greatly impact your regular sleep cycle, which is why individuals working the night shift often encounter issues sleeping effectively during the day. Try to expose yourself to bright light while you’re awake, and darken your bedroom when it’s time to go to sleep. Purchase heavy curtains if there are lights outside, and try to block out as much light as possible. Wake up and drink your coffee outside, and get out for walks during the day to get the most out of your daytime exposure. When it’s nearing night time, avoid bright screens such as the TV or computer, and tone down the lights to help tell your body it’s time to wind down. If you do have to get up at night, try navigating with the use of night lights, red light or dim light.

Get Out and Exercise

One of the best ways to improve your sleep cycle is to get regular exercise during the day. Exercise can help with a variety of sleep issues, and can also improve your mood and help you feel more alert during the day.

Prioritize Healthy Eating

Healthy eating can also greatly impact your ability to sleep. Caffeine, smoking, and any other stimulants ingested too close to bedtime, along with big, fatty meals, alcohol, or heartburn-causing spicy foods can disrupt your sleep.

Poor general sleeping habits, a demanding work schedule, and stress can all lead to a less than ideal sleep cycle. Restoring your natural circadian rhythm is important for getting longer, more restful, and uninterrupted sleep that can help you maintain your heart health.