You already know that getting a good night’s sleep helps you feel more alert and readier to face the day, but did you know it’s also good for your heart? A new paper put out by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) explains the link between quality sleep and heart health, and it’s convincing enough to make you want to hit the hay early tonight! Read on to learn all about it, then check out my top 5 tips for getting a good night’s sleep!
New Research Shows A Link Between Sleep And Heart Health
Investigators at MGH discovered how sleep can help prevent atherosclerosis (more commonly referred to as “hardened arteries”), according to Science Daily. Actually, they found the link between a lack of sleep and hardened arteries, which in turn led to the discovery of the benefits of a good night’s sleep.
About The Study
Doctor Filip Swirski of the MGH Center for Systems Biology and senior author of the paper explains that a lack of good sleep “breaks down the control of inflammatory cell production, leading to more inflammation and more heart disease.”
What does that mean in layman’s terms? Basically, sleep (along with the hormone that controls wakefulness) helps control the production of the white blood cells that lead to inflammation, which in turn contributes to atherosclerosis.
During the experiment, Dr. Swirski’s team took mice that were genetically programmed to develop hardened arties and repeatedly interrupted their sleep. Even though the mice did not develop other risk factors for atherosclerosis (like weight gain or high cholesterol levels), the mice who didn’t sleep well had higher levels of the inflammatory white blood cells and developed more clogged arteries than the control mice who got uninterrupted sleep.
This, in turn, led them to discover the link between the hormone responsible for wakefulness and the production of those white blood cells. While the scientists say that more research is needed to fully explore the link and how it translates to humans, the preliminary evidence is enough to convince me that I need to improve my sleep quality.
Even without this study, we know that sleep is important to our bodies. While sleep deprivation itself rarely causes death (although it can cause behaviors that lead to death or increase your risk of potentially fatal diseases), a lack of quality snooze time can cause a ton of other mental and physical problems.
Unfortunately, for many people getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done. Whether you have chronic insomnia or are dealing with a temporary issue that’s keeping you up at night, the following tips will help you spend more quality time with your pillow.
5 Tips to Help You Get a Good Night’s Sleep
First things first: if you’re consistently having a hard time getting to or staying asleep, talk to your doctor. While insomnia can be a disorder all on its own, it’s often a symptom of another health problem. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk sleep tips.
1. Start a bedtime routine (and stick to it)
If you have kids, you already know about the benefits of a bedtime routine. We’ll do just about anything to stick to it, even when we’re traveling! Yet somehow, we don’t really think about how our own routine can help us sleep better at night.
It doesn’t have to be a complicated ritual. Even just brushing your teeth, washing your face, then listening to some soothing music or reading a few pages in a book will do the trick. They key is to do the same things in the same order every night. That will help tell your brain, “hey, it’s time to wind down.”
2. Create an environment that’s soothing to you
Experts will tell you that a room should be cool, dark and quiet for the best night’s sleep. While that’s true for many people, you need to create the environment that works for you. If you can’t sleep in absolute silence, go ahead and turn on a sound machine. Not really a fan of pitch dark? Use a nightlight. Prefer to sleep in a warm room without blankets? Go for it. As long as it’s soothing to you and helps send you off to dream land faster, anything goes.
3. Change the light setting on your phone or tablet
The type of light that typically radiates from computer monitors, phones, and tablets can actually interfere with your sleep cycle by suppressing the release of melatonin, according to scientists at the Lighting Research Center.
Fortunately, most tech manufacturers include features that allow you to filter out the blue light. Look in your settings for a “night mode.” On iPhones, it’s called Night Shift under “Display & Brightness.” Switch it on a few hours before bedtime to help your body’s natural sleep hormones do their job.
4. Soothe your senses with lavender
Lavender plays a starring role in so many “calming” products for a reason: it is scientifically proven to help promote relaxation. Just inhaling the scent through a diffuser is often enough to trigger the relaxing benefits, but you can take it a step further by including it in DIY bath bombs or bath salts. Doesn’t a warm bath with lavender salts sound absolutely blissful?
5. Invest in a better night’s sleep
This last tip does require a bit of an investment, but it’s absolutely worth it. If it’s been more than 10 years since you last updated your mattress, it’s probably time to start looking for a new one. You want something that supports your body in the way that you sleep. For example, back sleepers often do best with a firm mattress. Side sleepers, on the other hand, need a little more “give.”
If you can’t afford a new mattress right now, even just buying a new topper can help. Gel memory foam is a good option because it cradles your body while also helping keep you cool at night. While you’re at it, grab yourself a new pillow that really supports your neck. Nothing ruins a good night’s sleep more than waking up with a stiff neck!
Remember, if you’re consistently having a hard time getting to sleep or staying in dream land, give your doctor a call. It could be a sign that something else is wrong in your body. For those who just have occasional problems sleeping or want to up their sleep game to maximize its health benefits, the above tips will help!