February is American Heart Month!
Many of us think of hearts for very different reasons during the month of February. What better month to emphasize heart health. In this bonus blog I am going to talk about the importance of sleep as it relates to heart health and the ways that Naturopathic medicine, specifically, the use of herbs can help you to attain good quality sleep that has the added bonus of being good for your heart!
Sleep is good for your heart! Getting a good night’s rest is essential for overall health and wellbeing. Lack of adequate sleep (5 or less hours per night) has been shown to be associated with a 45% increased risk of heart attack. With sleep quality is as important as quantity. Poor sleep quality (not achieving deep, restful sleep) is associated with a higher incidence of hypertension and can worsen existing hypertension. Poor sleep quality is also associated with obesity and being overweight or obese is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Think about the last time that you did not get a good night’s sleep. What was your appetite like the following day? Specifically, what types of foods did you crave? It was most likely foods that were high in fat and sugar content. There is a tendency to crave these types of foods when sleep quality is poor. If you have chronic poor sleep you are more likely to be eating these types of foods more often which can contribute to or exacerbate being overweight or obese.
Adequate sleep plays an important role in inflammation as well. Poor sleep leads to a measurable increase in inflammation. Hs-C-Reactive Protein, an inflammatory marker used to measure inflammation in blood vessels and ordered (along with other blood tests) when a doctor is determining and individuals risk cardiovascular disease has been shown to be elevated in individuals that complain of poor quality sleep. While elevation in C-reactive protein is associated with other factors as well, increasingly, more attention is being given to the role that inflammation plays in cardiovascular disease and this is a relationship that should not be ignored. For quite some time the focus has primarily been on elevated cholesterol and the role it plays in cardiovascular disease, specifically heart attacks. While cholesterol is a component, a critical factor that has been often overlooked is the role that inflammation plays in damaging the walls of blood vessels thereby setting the stage for artery blocking plaques to more easily adhere and restrict blood flow to heart tissue leading to heart attack.
If you find that you consistently have difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep and are sleepy throughout the day, it is a good idea to see your doctor. There are many ways that Naturopathic medicine can help in improving sleep quality and quantity and I welcome the opportunity to explore these options with you. In the meantime, stay tuned for Sleep-Part II when I will share some herbal formulas that I like to use to encourage better overall sleep.
Subjective sleep quality, blood pressure, and hypertension: a meta-analysis. 2018 Feb 19. doi: 10.1111/jch.13220.
Sleep, food cravings and taste. Appetite. 2018 Feb 12;125:210-216. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.02.013.
www.aasm.org American Academy of Sleep Medicine.