Can irregular sleep schedules hurt the heart?


It is normal to talk about the negative effects of poor sleep.

However, sleeping too much or at irregular hours can have even worse health consequences. Learn here how these habits can affect the heart and what to do to regulate them.

Sleep is one of the most important and necessary natural functions of the body. It allows the body and brain to recover from the exertions and stress that they were subjected to throughout the day.

Resting also helps strengthen the immune system, and improves alertness, decision-making, and performance (both physical and mental).

The amount of sleep that a person needs to rest properly can vary depending on a number of factors, such as age, lifestyle, and health. However, the general recommendations for sleep are:

  • Newly born: between 16 and 18 hours a day.
  • Preschoolers: between 11 and 12 hours a day.
  • School age children: at least 10 hours a day.
  • Teenagers: between 9 and 10 hours a day.
  • Adults (including older adults): between 7 and 8 hours a day.

What if we have irregular sleep schedules?

In addition to quantity, quality is a determining factor in getting a good night’s sleep. To do this, going to bed and waking up at the same time is essential. This is what is known as a regular sleep pattern.

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  • Why you shouldn’t sleep near your cell phone

According to different investigations, going to bed at the same time every night has many health benefits, among which are:

  • Increase the feeling of well-being.
  • Improve metabolic functions, as well as physical and mental performance.
  • Reduce the amount of time it takes to sleep.

On the contrary, irregular sleep patterns have severe health consequences. A study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute found that an irregular sleep pattern in older adults may be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The researchers came to this conclusion after looking at nearly 2,000 men and women, ages 45 to 84, who did not have cardiovascular disease at the start of the study for five years.

To measure sleep irregularity, the patients wore actigraphy devices on their wrists, which recorded their sleep and wake activity for 7 consecutive days.

Another problem linked to irregular sleep is an increased risk of developing diabetes. As a work published in Current BiologyPeople who sleep little during the week, but try to compensate for the hours not slept during the weekend, have organisms with less sensitivity to glucose.

During normal sleep, blood pressure levels tend to decrease, so another consequence of irregular sleep patterns can be seen with alterations in these levels, thus increasing the risk of hypertension.

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These habits can also be linked to weight gain or obesity, since when we sleep poorly, changes occur in the brain that stimulate the need to eat, especially high-calorie foods, without necessarily having produced a real increase in blood pressure. metabolic demand.

Regularize sleep schedules

Going to bed and dropping out at the same time every day is a great tool to tell the body which sleep-wake cycles we want. However, if these schedules are constantly altered, melatonin secretion can be affected, worsening the quality of sleep.

Popularly known as the sleep hormone, melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland, which is found in the brain.

Darkness causes the body to generate more melatonin, preparing it for sleep, while light decreases its production, allowing you to be awake and perform all daily activities.

To maintain regular sleep schedules you can follow these tips:

  • Get rid of distractions like bright lights, television, or computers in the bedroom.
  • Avoid or limit heavy meals at night.
  • Avoid or limit tobacco or caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening.
  • Avoid or limit alcoholic beverages before going to bed.
  • Consume oats, chicken, spirulina, dried herbs (such as mint), eggs, milk, legumes, peanuts and their butter, seeds, such as sesame and pumpkin, or soybeans and their derivatives. These are foods rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that stimulates the production of the hormones serotonin and melatonin.
  • Drink teas such as orange blossom, ginseng, lavender, chamomile, passionflower, linden or valerian teas. These infusions are characterized by their relaxing, anxiolytic and sleep-inducing effects.
  • Exercise regularly, just try not to make it too late or at night.
  • Keep the bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
  • Don’t take naps after 3 p.m.
  • Relax before going to bed, for example by taking a bath, reading or listening to soft music.
  • If you can’t fall asleep after half an hour, get up and do something relaxing.
  • To remember:

    Until significant scientific evidence from human trials is available, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should exercise extreme caution.

    Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, first talk to your doctor about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.

    Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.

    Sources consulted: Comprehensive Natural Medicines Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, National Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

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