Ever compared notes about sleep with someone? If you need a solid eight or nine hours (which you rarely get), and your buddy says he is perfect going on five hours a night, does that irk you? How about someone who claims she feels “radiant” after just four hours of sleep and seems to get a lot more done during the day (because she’s up before the sun)?
It’s funny how we find little ways to annoy and pester our friends about how much sleep we need or don’t need. But short-sleepers should listen up: If you’re lying about how much sleep you really need, you could be putting your health in jeopardy. The Brits just released a study showing that people who do not get enough sleep are more than twice as likely to die of heart disease.
This came after a seventeen-year study. Although the reasons are unclear, researchers think it’s related to increased blood pressure, which is known to raise the risk of heart attacks and stroke. The researchers were quick to point out that a third of the United Kingdom’s population clocks fewer than five hours a night. And it’s even worse in the U.S. where more than 40 percent of us regularly sleep less than five hours nightly. What’s wrong with us?
That’s not hard to answer. We’re busy. We’re glued to digital media. We have light bulbs and televisions and computer monitors to keep us up. We have designer coffee shops pumping out seemingly toxic levels of caffeine from every corner. And we love it all.
I’m a huge advocate for restful sleep. If you need nine hours a night, you need nine hours a night and should be proud when you can get that routinely. Don’t be ashamed. If you can squeak by on six or seven, but know you need more, that’s when you should feel guilty. Don’t worry about what other people will think. Worry about what your body will think. You will live longer then them anyway!
Technology and buzz drinks aside, sometimes sleep is elusive for those who have a bona fide sleep disorder. Take obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), for example, which is a common sleep disorder whereby a person temporarily stops breathing during sleep. This causes multiple awakenings during the night, resulting in poor sleep and chronic exhaustion.
The good news is an apparatus called a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) can help tremendously. This device keep the airway open so the person can breathe freely and dream peacefully. Having OSA has long been noted as a risk factor for heart troubles, and this past summer another study confirmed the link between getting good sleep and cardiovascular health. This time, researchers found that a CPAP can lower the risk of heart disease. I’m really not surprised about that, nor the British study.
Suffice it to say you owe some of your heart health to your sleep health. Your friends who make fun of you for sleeping eight hours and napping probably won’t be there to save your heart when it goes kaput. No, that part’s up to you. And you can do something every day to support it.
Good night, good heart.