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How Sleep Affects Heart Health

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In the spirit of Heart Research Month this February, Right at Home, Australia's premier homecare provider, thought we'd share some valuable information on the importance of sleep. How did you sleep last night? Sadly, there is a good chance your answer is "not well". In a large, worldwide survey in 2019, 62% of adults said they slept somewhat or not at all well. Only 10% said they slept extremely well. And if you live in a country that still observes daylight saving time, you may experience additional sleep-related challenges.

Getting enough sleep—and quality sleep—is important for everyone’s health. It is good to follow some guidelines even if you are not dealing with a time change.

How Much Sleep Should I Be Getting?

The recommended amount of sleep for adults varies based on age, lifestyle and individual needs. In general, it is recommended that adults aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night. For people over the age of 60, the recommended amount of sleep may be slightly lower.

As most adults have learned over their lifetime, sleep patterns may change as we age. Older adults may have a harder time falling asleep or staying asleep through the night compared to when they were younger. Or they may have more medical conditions, such as chronic pain, that can interfere with sleep.

The Connections Between Sleep and Heart Health

Sleep patterns do not just affect our mood and mental sharpness. They affect us physically as well. In fact, there is a strong connection between sleep and heart health. Research has shown that people who do not get quality sleep or enough sleep are at higher risk for developing serious health problems, including heart disease.

One study found that “middle-aged adults who had high blood pressure or diabetes and slept less than six hours had twice the increased risk of dying from heart disease or stroke”. It added, “The increased risk of early death for people with high blood pressure or diabetes was negligible if they slept for more than six hours”.

How exactly does sleep affect heart health? One way is through the impact of sleep on stress hormones. During sleep, the body produces less of the stress hormone cortisol, and that can help reduce blood pressure. In addition, sleep helps regulate the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress. When the sympathetic nervous system is active, it can cause an increase in stress hormones, such as adrenaline and noradrenaline. That, in turn, can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease.

Poor sleep habits can also increase the risk of heart disease by contributing to other risk factors, such as high cholesterol and diabetes. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who slept fewer than six hours per night were more likely to have higher blood pressure and higher levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol compared to those who slept seven to nine hours per night. Similarly, research has shown that poor sleep can increase the risk of developing diabetes, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

Off To Sleep You Go

What can you do to improve your sleep habits and protect your heart health? Here are some tips:

  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment by keeping the bedroom cool, dark and quiet, and using a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and heavy meals close to bedtime, as these can disrupt sleep. Alcohol may help some people fall asleep more quickly, but it is not a healthy long-term solution for sleep problems.
  • Relax before bed by reading a book or taking a warm bath. You know the next part: Leave your phone in another room.
  • Get regular exercise, but avoid vigorous activity close to bedtime.
  • If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant that can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. In addition, smokers may have a harder time falling asleep due to withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, that can occur during the night.

Bottom line, getting enough sleep can have a protective effect on the heart. Adequate sleep can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones and improve overall cardiovascular health. Anyone over the age of 60 should pay attention to their sleep patterns and anything that helps or interferes with sleep. For example, if you suspect that an illness or a medication you are taking is interfering with your sleep, talk to your doctor.

Also talk to your doctor if you have ongoing sleep problems or if you snore loudly and feel tired during the day. These could be signs of a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, which can be treated with lifestyle changes or medical intervention.

Right at Home can assist with many of the early evening sleep routines and activities of daily living for clients using our homecare services. Our personalised care planning and client centred approach, aims to achieve our mission of 'improving the quality of life for those we serve'. If you need assistance and support to maintain your independence at home, Right at Home, is an approved My Aged Care, Homecare Provider, and can assist with homecare package support from levels 1-4. Right at Home also provides support for plan and self-managed NDIS participants and some of our offices are also Registered NDIS Providers, providing support to Agency Managed Participants. Right at Home also provides care and support to Private Pay clients who do not qualify for government funding. Call Right at Home on 1300 363 802, to reach your nearest office or go to our website www.rightathome.com.au and you can search for your nearest office by putting in the postcode or suburb where you require services.  

Sleep well!

Keep up to date with COVID 19 information on the following links: 

Australian Government Department of Health 

Victorian Health and Human Services 

NSW Health 

Queensland Health 

ACT Health 

WA Department of Health 

Tasmanian Department of Health 

Northern Territory Department of Health 

SA Health 

Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care, and assistance to seniors (elderly and aged care), and any adult who needs our care at home including adults living with a disability who want to continue to live independently or age in their home. Right at Home is your local expert for issues related to caring for your loved ones and is dedicated to keeping you informed about home care. With no package management fees Right at Home allows you to get more care from your package or budget. 

Right at Home is a 'My Aged Care' government approved, home care provider for levels 1 – 4 and offers flexible in-home care services such as nursing care, after hospital care, post-operative care, respite care, dementia and Alzheimer's care. Right at Home also offers assistance with daily living and personal care such as grooming, hygiene, transport, shopping, meal prep, domestic services and social support, so your loved one can enjoy a more independent, vibrant life. Our nurses and caregivers are screened, highly trained, and insured prior to entering your home so you can trust us with the caregiving while you focus on your loved one. 

To find out more, please give us a call on 1300 363 802 or visit our website. 

Right at Home Offices in Australia: Adelaide Central; Brisbane Bayside; Brisbane North; Brisbane South; Brisbane West; Central Queensland & Wide Bay; Darling Downs; Far North Queensland; Gold Coast North; Gold Coast South; Greater Logan; Mackay; Moreton Bay Region; Noosa, Gympie & Hinterland; Sunshine Coast; Townsville; Central West New South Wales; Gosford; Hunter & Port Stephens; Macarthur Penrith; Newcastle; Northern Rivers; Padstow St George; Southern NSW; Sydney Central & Eastern Suburbs; Sydney Inner West; Sydney Liverpool; Sydney Lower North Shore; Sydney Norwest; Sydney Northern Beaches; Sydney Parramatta; Sydney Ryde; Sydney The Hills; Sydney Upper North Shore; Kalgoorlie Wheatbelt; Perth Como; Perth Midland; Perth Northern Suburbs; Perth West Coast; Southwest Victoria 

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