When it comes to having a healthy heart, most people agree that eating right, exercising, limiting alcohol and cigarettes are important. Other folks and researchers believe forgiveness is essential for a healthy heart. While all of these factors and others play a role in your heart’s health, new research suggests that 7 hours of sleep per night supports healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. In fact, people with less than 7 hours of sleep per night are more likely to have high blood pressure and excess body weight.
A group of Dutch scientists published their health study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. The study observed 12 years of data on more than 14,000 participants.
In a nutshell, this observational study showed that people who averaged more than seven hours of sleep per night were at a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (22%) and death (43%) – regardless of other lifestyle factors (diet, fitness, alcohol, smoking).
While this observational study cannot prove a true cause-and-effect relationship between sleep duration and reduced risk for heart disease, it does show that sufficient sleep is an often overlooked factor that plays a significant role in reducing one’s risk for cardiovascular disease.
7+ Ways to Improve Your Chances of Getting 7 Hours of Sleep
Sleep experts recommend the following habits to increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep. In addition to these 7, I included one that I find very helpful.
- Exercise regularly and make sure you complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime.
- Avoid stimulating activities just before bedtime (ie. computer work, video games, movies or television programs that elicit stress reactions such as worry or anxiety).
- Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine (ie. read before bed).
- Create a sleep conducive environment that is dark, quiet, and not too cool or too warm, with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
- Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate) close to bedtime.
- Finish eating at least 2 to 3 hours before your regular bedtime.
- Eat a healthful, balanced diet with a minimum of refined sugars, which are stimulating.
On a personal note, one additional tip I find very beneficial is to write things down before bed – when seemingly necessary. Sometimes when I have many things running through my mind, I do not relax well and cannot sleep easily. Those are the toss and turn nights, which are no fun for me or my wife.
So, to calm my mind, I take a few minutes before bed to write down all the things in my mind – sort of like a brain dump. Once everything is written down, I find that I am calmer, more relaxed, fall asleep faster, and sleep better.
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