It's a proven fact, insufficient rest and poor sleep can cause heart disease.
We all have some sense of the relationship between sleep and our ability to function throughout the day. After all, everyone has experienced the fatigue, bad mood, or lack of focus that so often follow a night of poor sleep. What many people do not realize is that a lack of sleep, especially on a regular basis, is associated with long-term health consequences, including chronic medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, and that these conditions may lead to a shortened life expectancy.
Of all the reasons to get a good night's sleep, protecting your heart might not be top of mind. But maybe it should be. Several recent studies show links between shortened sleep duration, defined as less than six hours of sleep, and increased risk of heart disease.
A 2011 European Heart Journal review of 15 medical studies involving almost 475,000 people found that short sleepers had a 48% increased risk of developing or dying from coronary heart disease in a seven to 25-year follow-up period (depending on the study) and a 15% greater risk of developing or dying from stroke during this same time.
Researchers caution that the mechanisms behind shortened and prolonged sleep and heart disease aren't completely understood. Lack of sleep doesn't necessarily cause heart disease; however, the research confirms that it increases the risk factors for heart disease.
Good sleep is the foundation of a happy and healthy life. Still, millions of people around the world are suffering from the effects of busy lifestyles, stress, overwork and fatigue. They are unable to rest, recharge and rejuvenate themselves. Many people have lost their ability to replenish themselves through good quality sleep. Millions of people are clinically sleep-deprived or suffering from sleep disorders.
We are not understanding the importance of sleep. Perhaps we are afraid to slow down. Work, work, work is an accepted way of life in our modern 24/7 lifestyle. Sleep is given a low priority. It is seen as a weakness or something that gets in the way of life rather than as the foundation of a healthy and full life. Sleep needs to be redefined as an activity to be treated with the utmost respect, like exercise and a good diet. Sleep, and our ability to relax and rest deeply, is the basis of a healthier and happier life.
The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research in America has labeled insomnia “a silent epidemic of staggering proportions”. 30-40% of people in America have insomnia and poor quality sleep each month. Almost 70 million Americans experience either chronic or intermittent sleep-related problems costing $15 billion in health care and $50 billion in lost productivity.
Approximately 5-10% of people use prescription sleeping pills, despite harmful side effects. Another 5-10% of people use over-the-counter medications. An unknown number of people use alcohol and other substances at night to try to help them sleep. Unfortunately, these attempts to sleep better usually do not provide the deep rest and recuperation needed.
How Much Good Sleep Is Needed?
The amount of sleep and rest each of us needs is different. There is consensus that for the majority of people 6 hours sleep is a minimum and 7-8 hours is ideal. However, the best way to judge if you have had sufficient rest and sleep is to feel how tired you are and how you well or poorly you perform during the day.
Effects of Not Enough Sleep
Going too long without sleep diminishes your ability to function. It’s like being drunk. Extended periods of sleep deprivation result in the brain shutting down. We are unable to make accurate judgments and in extreme cases this can result in hallucinations.
The negative physiological consequences of not getting enough rest and sleep are many, including:
- diminished quality of life,
- decreased productivity in school and workplace,
- increased risk of ill health and death from heart disease, diabetes, depression and obesity, and
- increased risk of accidents associated with excessive sleepiness.