Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in America 🙁

February is American Heart Health Month. Several health behaviors contribute to positive heart health including: eating well, getting adequate physical activity, managing stress, avoiding tobacco, and getting adequate sleep.

Today, I’m focusing on one of my favs—> sleep! I am a firm, firm believer in getting adequate sleep. I must get >7 hours of sleep/night or I’m worthless. Sounds pretty whiney, huh? Whiney or not, at least I’m helping my heart 😉

Dr. Martha Gulati, director of preventive cardiology and women’s cardiovascular health at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, has shared some of her tips for acquiring good sleep, to ensure a healthy heart.

Sleep deprivation and heart disease are often in bed together. (cheesy Valentine’s Day joke, hehe)

Sleep is one of our body’s most vital needs. Just like air, food and water, it is essential for life. It’s often thought of as a passive state, yet during sleep our body’s major organs and regulatory systems are busy repairing, restoring and regenerating themselves. A lack of sleep is associated with many health problems, including depression, weight gain and, perhaps most dangerously, an increased risk of heart disease.

Sleep deprivation can increase our risk of heart disease by:

  • Increasing blood pressure
  • Triggering inflammation
  • Promoting calcium buildup in the arteries
  • Causing an irregular heartbeat

To improve your quality of sleep and reduce health implications, Dr. Martha Gulati recommends these tips for getting a better night’s rest:

  1. Set aside at least seven to eight hours for sleep. Leaving only five or six house for sleep may make you feel stressed and make it harder to fall asleep.
  2. Get into the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, such as 10 p.m. for sleep and 6 a.m. to wake.
  3. Do relaxing activities before bed. For example, read a book, take a warm bath or meditate.
  4. Reserve your bedroom for intimacy and sleep only; don’t work or watch television in your bedroom.
  5. Make your bedroom dark, quiet and comfortable. Create an environment that is calming and relaxing. Use room-darkening shades or heavy curtains to keep the light out. This will help trigger your body’s release of melatonin, a hormone that helps us fall asleep and regenerates cells. If you live in a loud neighborhood, try using a fan to create white noise, which will help mask the sounds around you.
  6. Avoid long naps during the day. If you are really tired during the day and need a nap, limit it to 30 to 45 minutes. Anything longer than that can affect your sleep at night.
  7. Exercise regularly but not before bed. Exercise is stimulating; exercising too close to bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep.
  8. Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, soda and chocolate) six hours before bed-time. Caffeine is stimulating and can affect sleep quality.
  9. Avoid alcohol within four to six hours of bedtime. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but as the alcohol levels in your blood start to fall, it can have a stimulant effect, causing you to wake up in the night. So limit alcohol in the evening or avoid it completely.
  10. Choose your bedtime snacks wisely. Sugary foods, like cookies, ice cream and candy bars can cause a “sugar rush” and keep you from falling asleep. Avoid these foods within four hours of bedtime. Also avoid heavy and spicy foods before bed as they can trigger heartburn and acid reflux and affect your ability to stay asleep. If you want a bedtime snack, choose a food that contains tryptophan, an amino acid that stimulates the release of serotonin, a brain chemical that facilitates sleep. Examples of good bedtime snacks include whole grain crackers and cheese, turkey, a banana, or a small bowl of cereal.
  11. Be aware that some medications can contribute to sleep problems. Among them are antihistamines and decongestants, beta blockers, thyroid medications, antidepressants and pain medications (containing caffeine).

Thanks for reading.

I’m off to bed to get my 8+ hours of sleep 🙂

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