Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Sleep?
Getting enough quality sleep is one of the most underrated healthy-lifestyle factors out there. We now know that getting less than 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night is seriously detrimental to our health in both the short run and long run — especially the health of our hearts. Many of us focus exclusively on eating and exercising our way to cardiovascular health, but studies now reveal that if you are not getting enough quality sleep, your heart is going to hurt (literally).
This should be an alarming wake-up call to a lot of us when it comes to sleeping enough each night, because at least one third of adults in the United States are not getting the sleep they need. A lack of sleep also impacts the brain in some serious ways, not just the heart and body. But there’s a flip side to that coin; recent studies have found that too much sleep can also be bad for heart health. So if you’re catching up on missed sleep on the weekends with long sleep sessions, you could be doing more harm than good.
Keep reading to learn about why we need just the right amount of sleep each night, and how you can more easily meet your nightly sleep goals for better health today and tomorrow.
Think sleep is overrated? Think again!
You need sleep for so many functions in addition to restoring energy. Sleep helps the body to regulate body temperature, metabolism, and blood pressure, among other things. Sleep is also important for muscle and tissue repair, as well as information retention and hormone regulation — plus, growth occurs while you sleep.
Research shows that a lack of sleep can lead to a decrease in the quality of life and increased severity of gastrointestinal and other disorders. A major 2017 study reported that not sleeping enough sleep can lead to health conditions and other consequences including:
- Weight gain and obesity
- Heart disease
- Accidents and injuries
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Psychiatric symptoms
Experts suggest that this increase in risk of health problems from poor or not enough sleep is related to an increase in inflammation. In fact, a 2018 study reports that systemic inflammation increases with sleep deprivation. This means that a person is at higher risk for inflammatory conditions like heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis when they don’t get enough sleep.
How much sleep do you really need?
The National Sleep Foundation reports that most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Sleep needs can be higher for growing children and young adults. However, for most adults, even those 65 years and older, experts recommend about seven to nine hours each night.
In fact, a recent study reports that sleeping more or less than the recommended seven to nine hours each night can increase the risk of heart disease. The study looked at sleep habits and medical records of over 460,000 adults over seven years. The study subjects were from the United Kingdom and between the ages of 40 and 69 years old. Study results demonstrated that:
- Those who slept less than six hours each night had a 20% greater risk of a first heart attack than those who slept between six and nine hours each night.
- People who slept more than nine hours each night had a 34% greater risk of a first heart attack than those who slept between six and nine hours each night.
Researchers suggest that these study results show that sleep duration has a great impact on heart health risk.
Tips to sleep better each night
Regardless of what may be causing poor sleep patterns, if you want better functionality of mind, body, and heart, follow these proven tips to improve your sleep each night.
Keep a consistent sleep routine
Try to go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning. This is because sleep disruption can also disrupt the circadian rhythm of the body, which can lead to metabolic health problems. Therefore, try to settle down about an hour before your scheduled bedtime and set an alarm for your scheduled wake-time.
Create a bedtime ritual
Making a bedtime ritual for each night will help get you prepared to sleep, and help you maintain your sleep routine. Your ritual could include drinking a cup of hot herbal tea one hour before bed, diffusing essential oils like lavender, dimming the lights, and turning off screens an hour before bedtime. The bedtime regimen should include activities that will help your body wind down from the day and prepare for sleep. Other examples of bedtime activities may include a relaxing bath, reading a book, or listening to calming music.
Avoid cigarettes, alcohol, and heavy meals in the evening
All of these are not only unhealthy in general, but can disrupt sleep. For example, experts report that alcohol can increase the severity of snoring, cause breathing problems during sleep, and cause you to wake up throughout the night. In addition to such behaviors, try to limit caffeine intake during the day, since caffeine can keep your mind awake and cause you to wake up needing to use the bathroom during the night.
Not only is exercise good for heart health, it can also help you sleep better. Try to be as active as possible each day, but not too close to your scheduled bedtime. Experts suggest that regular exercise can help you attain a deeper level of restorative sleep and wake up less often during the night.
Manage stress and anxiety
Incessant worrying about the events of the day, finances, family issues, future events, and other stressors can disrupt sleep. Therefore, try to use methods like yoga or breathing exercises to calm yourself down before your scheduled bedtime. If you find that such methods are not enough to manage your stress, then talking to a professional therapist might help.
If the methods above don’t seem to help with your sleep problems, then you may have an underlying medical issue. Muscle or joint pain, breathing problems like sleep apnea, and heartburn are some issues that could disrupt sleep. Therefore, if you have chronic sleep issues that you cannot seem to resolve, see a qualified healthcare provider right away.
Take a natural sleep supplement
Too much sleep isn't a problem for many of us, but either too much or too little sleep — or a combination of both, if you get too little during the week and try to make up for it on your day off — can be harmful to your health. If you’re serious about keeping your body and mind at the top of their game, then the right amount of quality sleep is crucial. Besides providing energy, sleep helps regulate so many important processes in your body needed for optimal health.
It can be hard to get enough sleep due to busy schedules, anxiety, or for other reasons. But untreated long-term sleep deprivation can lead to serious health problems, so take whatever measures necessary to get your sleep back on track!