Making sure you get plenty of undisturbed sleep could increase the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and prevent heart problems, researchers suggest.
It’s important to take regular exercise and of course eat healthily as we all know – but it is even more important to stop smoking and moderate your alcohol intake – particularly later in the evening. It’s these lifestyle changes that will most protect you from heart problems and reduce the chance of early death as a result.
Researchers wanted to find out if getting a good night’s sleep – which they defined as seven hours or more a night – could enhance the benefits of healthy lifestyle changes. Several studies have already suggested that it can, and that lack of sleep is linked to a risk of being overweight, and to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. A key symptom is snoring which obviously can seriously disturb your sleep pattern – and also that of others.
The research took place as follows and took 12 years in total
- Doctors and researchers studied almost 20,000 adults aged between 20 and 65 who had no previous history of heart problems.
- All of them were questioned about diet, exercise levels, whether they drank or smoke, and how much sleep they usually got each night.
- Then researchers recorded how many of the people in the study, which lasted about 12 years, died of heart problems, or had a heart attack or stroke during that time.
During the study period, 142 people died of heart problems, 239 had a heart attack, and 122 had a stroke – a total of 703 cases.
The key finding was that the healthier the person’s lifestyle, the less chance there was of dying of heart problems, or having a heart attack or stroke.
People who had a healthy diet, drank in moderation, didn’t smoke, and exercised often, reduced their chances of dying of heart problems, or having a heart attack or stroke, and even more if they had “sufficient sleep” every night – undisturbed by heavy snoring or sleep apnoea.
The results were conclusive and are important for us to act on immediately.
Eliminating snoring is key. Unless this is done the chance of a good night’s sleep is seriously restricted – both for the person snoring and their partner.
Tossing and turning is a familiar feeling for many and there are a number of key things that will prevent us from getting the restful night we both need and deserve.
The 5 main things that will disturb your sleep are:
- Late night stimulants like coffee, alcohol or food
- An uncomfortable or noisy environment including snoring by either you or your partner
- An irregular routine – going to bed and waking up at different times each day
- The wrong body temperature during sleep – too warm or too cold
- Stress and a busy mind
The recent hot, humid weather across many parts of Britain has made for uncomfortable nights for quite a few people and although The Met Office says temperatures will now fall slightly, the humidity will remain fairly high.
Humidity is a big part of the problem, making it hard for sweat to evaporate. For many, getting to sleep will have been sweaty and uncomfortable, closer to the climate people associate with Bangkok rather than Birmingham.
Warm nights have been the biggest problems because in Northern Europe, most of us have mechanisms in place to keep our homes warm during the winter, but not to keep them cool during the summer. Our warmest summer nights can be a bit of a double whammy for our sleep, because we get exposed both to too much heat and too much light. So what can we do?
It’s mostly common sense and Mary Morrell, professor of sleep and respiratory physiology at Imperial College London suggests the following things to help. She recommends using thin cotton sheets, using an electric fan, opening relevant windows that don’t let in noise, cutting out late night tea, coffee and alcohol, and putting up heavier winter-style curtains to reduce the light.
All this will make for a better night’s sleep and of course we know the health benefits of that already.
By John Redfern