The cardiovascular system circulates blood, fresh oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body. We rely on the heart to pump blood and keep us going 24/7. Even though the heart is always working, it utilizes the time we are sleeping for essential recovery by slowing down. How can we best support our heart health and function with nightly rest vital to our overall well-being? First, we need to understand our sleep and its key role in maintaining heart health.
The first and second stages of sleep are light sleep, lasting a few minutes as you drift off. Your muscles relax, allowing for an increase in blood flow and circulation. The third and fourth stages are known as deep sleep, sometimes referred to as the restorative stage. While our brain waves and breathing naturally slow, our body is doing essential work to support muscles, tissues, immune function, and sympathetic nervous activity.
The Link Between Sleep Phases and Heart Health
Deep sleep is an essential time for the heart. During this vital stage, your heart does not have to work hard. Most of the night is spent in this stage, and during this time, the resting heart rate naturally slows to about 20% to 30% below your waking heart rate.
When you dream, you enter the sleep phase known as REM or rapid eye movement sleep. Your heart rate can vary during this stage because it reflects the activity level occurring in your dream.
A study monitoring blood pressure and sleep deprivation showed that our sleep doesn’t just affect our blood pressure levels while resting but can affect them into the next day as well. After a full night's sleep, your body is better able to support a healthy response to everyday stress. Deep sleep can therefore help support sustained, healthy blood pressure levels throughout the next day.
Healthy sleep habits are associated with a balanced sympathetic nervous system, which is the system responsible for what is known as our fight-or-flight response. The sympathetic nervous system regulates important bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and digestion. When thrown off balance, these functions can be disrupted.
Stress affects the body’s alertness. When stressed, adrenal glands produce hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which activate the fight-or-flight response, sending extra blood to the muscles and glucose into the bloodstream for energy. These metabolic shifts can throw off cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and other essential elements your heart depends upon for optimal function. Additionally, the heart is working to pump extra blood, which affects blood vessels, blood pressure, and heart muscle tone.
Over time, inadequate sleep can also lead to lifestyle habits that can affect your heart, including your ability to manage everyday stress, less motivation to be physically active, and an unhealthy diet. We are less likely to exercise when sleep-deprived and to feel fatigued. This can lead to unhealthy cortisol levels, also known as your stress hormone. Being stressed often leads to craving more sugary foods and less time devoted to preparing home-cooked meals that are healthier.
Here are some tips to help you create better sleep habits for your heart and overall health.
♦ Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Try to maintain your sleep schedule as best you can—even on weekends.
♦ Get enough natural light, especially earlier in the day.
♦ Get enough physical activity during the day.
♦ Make regular exercise a part of your daily routine, but try not to exercise within a few hours of bedtime.
♦ Avoid artificial blue light from electronic devices like smartphones and computers, especially within a few hours of bedtime.
♦ Don’t eat a large meal too close to your bedtime
♦ Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
Regular and consistent rest will help your heart function more efficiently. However, you can also add supplemental support to your daily heart health routine. The nutrients and clinically-studied ingredients in CardioFitMD® can support optimal heart and circulatory function. Some of the potent ingredients include:
♦ Highly concentrated beetroot powder promotes nitric oxide production, which is essential for arterial wall integrity, platelet function, and circulation.
♦ Broad-spectrum fiber combined with prebiotics and probiotics supports healthy blood sugar levels, gut microbiome health, immune function, and healthy cholesterol.
♦ Rhodiola is a traditional herb that helps the body manage everyday stress and promotes efficient energy levels and stamina.
Being proactive about heart health and taking a comprehensive approach is essential for your overall well-being. Deep, restorative sleep benefits all aspects of your health, the center of which is your heart. Promote optimal heart health with a daily routine that includes proper sleep, regular exercise, a nutrient-rich diet, and the supplemental support of CardioFitMD®, so every morning is your best morning.
Dr. Heather Shenkman
Dr. Heather Shenkman is a board certified interventional cardiologist. She completed a six year program at Albany Medical College, graduating at the age of 23. She completed her residency at Henry Ford Hospital, cardiology fellowship at the University of Rochester, and interventional cardiology fellowship at the esteemed Tufts Medical Center in Boston.