It's not just our minds and our skin that benefit from a good night's rest. Every cell in our body relies on night-time to repair and renew. When it comes to our heart, a good night sleep is essential down time. Here's why it is so crucial...
What happens to our heart while we are sleeping?
Our heart rate slows down to between 10 and 30 beats per minute when we sleep. This reduces our blood pressure and takes pressure off our system. Basically, sleep is the part of our lives when our heart doesn't have to work quite as hard.
SLEEP & HEART HEALTH
Several recent studies show clear links between shortened sleep duration (six hours of sleep) and increased risk of heart disease. Here are four related factors that could be behind this...
1. People who are sleep-deprived show less variability in their heart rate, meaning that instead of fluctuating normally, the heart rate usually stays elevated at its full on daytime levels. It's thought that this eventually puts stress on our system and may cause it to wear out sooner.
2. Lack of sleep has also been shown to increase insulin resistance, a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
3. Shortened sleep can increase the presence of key protein called CRP which our body releases with stress and inflammation - both of which put our heart and circulatory system under pressure. A high CRP level is a risk factor for cardiovascular and heart disease.
4. Shortened sleep also starts a chain reaction around diet. When we are sleep-deprived, our body releases a hormone called ghrelin that controls our appetite. A bad night's sleep has been shown to lead to unhealthy food choices the next day and an increase in snacking. This in turn could lead to overeating and eventually obesity - with all the extra pressure that puts on our heart and other vital organs.
Source: How can getting enough sleep protect your heart? Sleep expert Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Michael J. Breus
Read more about why ignoring the need for a good night's sleep can be so bad for our health in this article by bbc.co.uk