Beating between sixty and one-hundred times a minute, the heart is central to the body’s circulatory system, using a complex and clever network of veins and arteries to deliver oxygenrich blood to all its four corners.
What Kind of Problems Does the Heart Face?
But for as amazing as the heart is, it’s not invincible (apart from when you’re in love of course), and there are many things that we do as part of day-to-day life that can cause it to skip one too many beats. Lifestyle choices appear to have the largest impact, with habits like smoking, drinking and poor dietary choices all causing cardiac irregularity.
For example. smoking causes the major arteries leading to and from the heart to contract, whilst hardening their inner walls. There are four on these, and they’re called the right coronary artery, the left main coronary, the left anterior descending, and the left circumflex artery.
When the passages from these into the heart begin to tighten in this way, it raises the blood pressure and heart rate, which in turn can cause the heart to beat abnormally, in what’s known as heart arrhythmia.
Heartbeat irregularity is a common feature in many of the heart’s problems. This is because it’s closely linked with the risk of blood clots. These alone have the ability to cause a heart attack or even, very literally, sudden death. But if a blood clot becomes loose, it’s possible for it to travel to the brain, causing you to have a stroke.
Who Is Most At Risk?
It’s really good to be aware of what’s touching your heart. Although when we think of who’s at risk of developing heart problems, we usually think about things like diabetes or people with high cholesterol, lifestyle choices are more often than not to blame. Obesity, lack of exercise, stress, and your family history are all contributing factors towards the health of the heart.
What’s more, studies have also strongly suggested that things like air pollution and mental health can have an impact too. We know this must all sound quite scary, but you shouldn’t lose sleep over your concerns. The body is its own greatest healer, and there are many ways in which it’s able to repair itself, if the right changes are put in place.
When it comes to matters of the heart, sometimes the smallest changes will have the biggest impact. Following a healthy lifestyle, enjoying regular amounts of exercise, and breathing fresh air will all play their role in improving your cardiac health.
Yet as effective as these solutions are, none are better for the health of the heart than the most powerful solution of all: sleep.
Why Is Sleep Good for your Heart?
It's best to think of the heart as being a bit like an engine of a car; you don’t leave it running all the time. When we go to sleep at night, the heart is given a much needed break, an opportunity to wind down. And although it never really shuts off, this rest period is just the time it needs to repair itself.
As we talked about before, the heart is constantly mired by a retinue of problems, most of which are typically associated with the likes of an increased heart rate and sky-high blood pressure.
Your blood pressure goes down when you sleep, and so too do the risks you might encounter. But when you lack a good amount of sleep, the blood pressure doesn’t have the healthiest amount of time to wind down, and therefore stays dangerously higher for longer.
When considering the impact that stress has on the heart, it’s interesting to look at the link between stress and sleep. The stress we feel emotionally has a habit of manifesting itself into physical pain, and although the likes of soothing body wraps and hot baths relieve sore and tired muscles, not even their benefits will be able to reach a burnt out, overworked heart. The experience of stress and emotionally-demanding environments often leads sleep into a tailspin, as you can be too stressed to sleep, yet stressed because your tired. Regaining control over your sleep will end this dubious cycle.
Obesity, one of the main enemies of the heart, is also closely connected to sleep. This is due to the balance of hormones that swirl around the body during the night; namely two called ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the appetite hormone, and flows through the system when your stomach is empty as a way of telling you to eat. However, sleep deprivation can also cause ghrelin to misfire, mistakenly telling you to eat more than you should.
Its relative leptin is its exact opposite. Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, it’s that feeling of feeling full. Interestingly however, when we sleep too much, which is often the case with people who suffer from sleeping disorders like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, more leptin is released into the system than is needed, which means you don’t feel like eating when you should.
On a broader scale, getting enough sleep is crucial for allowing good digestion to take place, and on top of this, sleep deprivation can also hamper the speed of your metabolism. Whatever weight-focussed goals you’re working towards, it’s really important to know how crucial sleep is to managing this area of your body. Eating right and working out will only take your mission so far, because it’s good sleep that’s the missing link.
Which Sleeping Position Is Best for the Heart?
People who want to sleep their way to a healthier heart often wonder which sleeping position is best for this purpose. Although there isn’t a great amount of evidence to strongly suggest either way, the evidence that we do have does point to the left side as being the most beneficial.
This is due to the structure of the heart itself. The vena cava is a major artery that feeds into the right side of the heart, and when you sleep on the right side, the weight of all the other organs on top of it for eight-plus hours may reduce the artery’s ability to do its job.
However, again what we know in this department remains to be investigated further by medical professionals. With that being said, if you have experienced a serious problem with your heart, such as heart failure, then your doctor will likely recommend the best options they know to be available to your condition.
However, there is a certain position that you should seek to avoid if having problems with your heart and that is sleeping on your back. This is because, for certain people, this position causes them to experience sleep apnea, which is when your breathing starts and stops sporadically whilst you sleep; adding unwanted and excessive amounts of pressure to the heart.
Research from 2019 also shows that sleeping in this position may contribute to poor oxygen flow and the circulation of blood, and a wider array of respiratory issues. If you’re interested in learning more about the best sleeping positions, please feel free to head on over to our recent blog post here, and if you’re wondering how you can get the best nights sleep, we have just the blog you’re looking for here.
Just remember, the heart and your sleep is a two way system, and they both massively rely on each other to do the best job they can. For more healthy sleeping tips and some dreamy sleeping tricks, head on over to our website.
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