When people talk about a healthy lifestyle, they always include a healthy diet and regular exercise. While it’s true the eating well and moving around can provide great health benefits and help us live longer, we can’t forget about good sleep, which plays a serious role in our well-being and bodily health.
A recent statement from the American Heart Association shows that sleep problems are linked to higher risk of heart disease. Sleep problems include sleeping too long or too short and sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. A short sleep is defined as under 7 hours of sleep every night. On the other hand, a long sleep is defined as more than 9 hours per night. Insomnia is defined as difficulty or staying asleep for at least 3 nights a week for more than 3 months. Sleep apnea is breathing irregularly during sleep. These sleep problems are found to be associated with type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, unhealthy blood cholesterol levels and other risk factors of heart disease. In obesity, for example, studies show sleep influences food intake and could directly impact obesity risk.
But longer-conducted studies are needed in order to see the impact of sleep problems on weight gain. For research about blood cholesterol levels and sleep problems, longer studies are needed to help show whether sleep changes during the week can influence people’s cholesterol levels. One important thing for these longer studies is that they can help examine the causal relations between sleep problems and heart disease risk. Most reported studies are observational, meaning they show connections between poor sleep and health problems, but they cannot make conclusions about whether sleep problems cause these conditions. The researchers also suggest that people who are overweight and snore should be referred to a sleep specialist to check for sleep apnea.
We all know that good sleep is important, just as being physically active and eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and fish are important for our heart health. At the end of the day, patients struggling with inadequate sleep or insomnia should ask their doctor how to proceed – but it’s important to note that these symptoms shouldn’t be ignored. Beyond the physical ramifications of lack of sleep, research has proven the epidemic is affecting our mental health, too. And when it comes to your well-being, you’ll never regret speaking up.
Further reading: American Heart Association.
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Originally published at ihealthliving.com