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The Link Between Heart Health and Sleep in Seniors

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerJuly 31, 2019
The Link Between Heart Health and Sleep in Seniors

Eating a balanced diet, giving up unhealthy habits and participating in regular exercise are well-known steps to take to have better heart health and increased longevity. However, we don’t often hear about the importance of getting enough sleep to maintain a healthy heart.

New research published in Experimental Physiology shows that “habitual short sleep duration” negatively impacts the health of the heart. Learn more about the study and read these four tips on how to improve cardiovascular health and sleep in seniors.

How Heart Health and Sleep Are Linked in Seniors

The Experimental Physiology research paper aimed to determine whether “habitual short sleep duration” – less than seven hours per night – was associated with lower levels of “specific inflammation and vascular‐related microRNAs.” MicroRNAs are small, non-coding RNA molecules within the human body that play a key role in regulating vascular health. They are also indicators of how healthy a person’s heart is.

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The study looked at 24 adults; 12 with normal sleep duration and 12 with short sleep duration. The results showed that circulating levels of specific microRNA’s were “significantly lower in the short sleep compared with the normal sleep group.” This is especially problematic because changes in microRNA’s such as this have been linked to vascular dysfunction and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

While adequate sleep has long been touted as an important factor in maintaining overall health, many people struggle with falling asleep, staying asleep and generally meeting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night.  According to a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, one in four Americans develops insomnia each year for a variety of reasons.  While most individuals’ sleeping habits return to normal within one year, approximately 20% of individuals affected will continue to experience ongoing sleep challenges.

Luckily there are actions you can take to improve both your heart health and sleeping habits.

Harvard Medical School suggests the following four tips to help you cope with disrupted sleep and improve unhealthy sleep patterns:

  • Avoid electronic devices at least two hours before bed
  • Get regular exercise – but not within an hour of going to bed.
  • Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet place
  • Wake up at the same time each day

If these changes do not improve your sleeping habits, connect with a medical professional to dig deeper into the reasons behind your disrupted sleep. Illness (such as chronic pain or depression), medications, or other health factors may be the root cause. Lifestyle habits such as drinking alcohol or eating before bedtime, consuming too much caffeine, or napping during the day can also disrupt a good night’s sleep.

Regardless of the cause, addressing your sleep issues are as important to your heart health as eating well or exercising.

Nothing is as healing or rejuvenating for the body, mind, and soul as getting a full night of uninterrupted rest; and now there is scientific evidence to back up the old adage that eight hours of rest is best.

Were you aware of the link between heart health and sleep in seniors? What suggestions do you have for getting better sleep? We’d like to hear your tips in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
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Kimberley Fowler

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