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Wie sich Ihr Schlaf auf Ihr Herz auswirkt

von NFI Redaktion

Think about improving your heart health, and you may focus on diet and exercise. However, sleep is just as crucial – even though many consider it a luxury rather than a necessity.

„Just like we talk about a low-fat diet to lower your cholesterol and maintain heart health, maintaining healthy sleep is important for your overall well-being,“ says Susheel Patil, MD, PhD, Director of the sleep medicine program for University Hospitals.

Yet, many people view sleep as a luxury rather than a necessity. „Most Americans likely suffer from some degree of sleep deprivation,“ says Patil. According to the CDC, one in three adults in the US sleeps less than the recommended 7-9 hours per night. Over time, this could increase their risk of conditions that can affect the heart, such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Regular, good sleep gives your body the restful break it needs. Without it, the likelihood of developing health problems increases, which can in turn impact your heart.

People who sleep less than 6 hours per night are more likely to gain weight, develop diabetes, and suffer from heart disease compared to those who get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, says Patil. There is evidence that people with sleep deprivation tend to have shorter lifespans than their well-rested counterparts.

Moreover, individuals with sleep apnea are more prone to heart disease, strokes, and high blood pressure. Chronic insomnia also increases the risk of developing heart disease over time.

The intersection between heart health and sleep disorders is so strong that some heart centers employ sleep specialists. This is the case at the Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute of Baptist Health in Florida, where Dr. Harneet Walia serves as the Director of Sleep Medicine and Continuous Improvement. Walia regularly educates her patients on the connection between sleep, heart health, and overall well-being.

Often, people are unaware of how serious sleep problems can be for the heart, she says. „It’s like having high cholesterol. Sometimes you only realize the severe consequences once it’s treated,“ says Walia. „People may exhibit symptoms like sleepiness, fatigue, and sleep disturbances, but sometimes not. Yet, it has consequences for your body, and you may not be aware of them.“

Recognizing the impact of sleep on heart health, Walia specialized in sleep medicine. Early in her career, a patient at the practice she worked at suffered from „resistant hypertension.“ Despite taking four blood pressure medications, his blood pressure remained out of control. The health team recommended he undergo a sleep study, revealing a crucial issue: sleep apnea. After starting CPAP therapy to treat his sleep apnea, his blood pressure improved rapidly, as did his mood and quality of life.

This inspired Walia to pursue her fellowship in sleep medicine. „There are over 80 sleep disorders affecting about 70 million Americans, and they overlap with many organ systems, especially the cardiovascular system,“ she says. Improving sleep for these individuals could enhance heart health.

You likely know the basics for good sleep. It will help your heart – and the rest of your body – to do these things.

Maintain a consistent bedtime and wake-up time even on weekends. Your body and brain will get used to the routine, making sleep easier. Patil says this is „probably the most important thing someone can do to lay the foundation for better sleep.“

Avoid being productive in your bedroom. Patil suggests that your bedroom should be dedicated to rest and relaxation, shielded from hustle and bustle. As he puts it, „One really wants to make the bedroom a sort of oasis.“

Set a screen curfew. Walia recommends avoiding electronic device usage 30 minutes before bedtime to unwind. She also suggests refraining from napping during the day. If you must nap, do it earlier in the day and no longer than 20 minutes.

If you follow all these steps and still feel tired, irritable, or have concerns about your sleep, talk to your doctor.

Sleep can feel indulgent, especially when you’re expected to be „on“ all the time. But for a healthy and productive life, it’s a must, just like good nutrition and exercise. Patil puts it this way: „The more you practice healthy sleep habits throughout your life, the less likely you are to develop these types of sleep disorders and you will maintain your overall health in the long term.“

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