Ah...a good nights sleep. We all want to get in the recommended 7-8 hours, yet according to the National Sleep Foundation, almost one-third of Americans sleep 6.5 hours or less each night.
So, not only are we walking around in a bad mood, eyes half open, giant cup of Joe in hand, but now research shows that we are actually putting our heart at risk!
Research by Dr. Alexandros Vgontzas, professor of psychiatry at The Pennsylvania State University in Hershey reveals that even modest sleep deprivation may be associated with low-grade inflammation, which can lead to a number of cardiovascular problems. Vgontzas and his team of researchers deprived 25 men and women just two hours of sleep per night over a six-week period.
They measured blood levels for immune-system molecules called cytokines, which are normally secreted during inflammation and infection. Both men and women in the study had increased concentrations of cytokines, which confirms lack of sleep may stimulate an increase in chronic inflammation.
This is troublesome, particularly because continuous inflammation has been shown to lead to hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and even heart failure. Also, lack of quality sleep has a significant effect on your blood sugar levels. If you are sleep deprived, it requires more insulin to balance your blood sugar levels, which, in turn, can lead to heart disease and a host of other health related problems.
So, you know you need more shut-eye but getting to bed early and sleeping in later just aren't an option with your busy schedule. Maybe the quantity of hours shouldn't be your main focus, let's try focusing on getting "quality" sleep. The first option that comes to mind for most people who want to sleep more soundly is to seek out over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids.
However, there are several downsides to consider:
• Risk of tolerance - meaning your body can require more and more of the medication in order to achieve results.
• The lingering effects of sleepiness from the previous night's dosage can affect your safety, the safety of those around you and even put lives at risk.
• They can be highly addictive - creating the danger that the body will never really learn to sleep on its own again A far better choice is to consider more natural approaches.
You can do simple things like avoiding caffeine and television before bedtime, or practicing relaxation exercises to help you unwind. You can also seek out a natural herbal supplement that will help you achieve the solid sleep you need in order to maintain good health and take care of your heart.
Trying these more natural approaches may be just the thing to safely help you obtain a solid nights rest without the risks associated with other traditional medications.
There you have it. The evidence is overwhelming; getting sensible amounts of good quality sleep is essential to achieving optimal health and particularly a healthy heart. Ultimately it's up to you to make the right decision regarding your individual health. Remember... more zzz's equals less disease!
By Jesse Cannone CFT, CPRS
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