Getting a good night’s sleep is important for a healthy heart and general wellbeing, as research shows that people who don’t sleep well are more at risk from heart disease, diabetes and stroke. This is regardless of their age, weight, and smoking and exercise habits.
At NICHS we’re still providing vital services during the COVID-19 pandemic to educate people in Northern Ireland about how to improve their general health and wellbeing, such as sleeping well. As almost 90% of our funds come from you, however, we urgently need your donations, so we can keep ‘Caring through COVID’ and provide these key support services.
Did you know that any change from your normal daily sleep routine is statistically related to greater risk of heart disease and death?
Research shows that sleeping too little can disrupt underlying health conditions and negatively affect biological processes like blood pressure, glucose levels and inflammation. The same may be true for oversleeping.
During sleep, your body is busy repairing cells, storing new information in the brain and removing waste from it, and restores our energy, amongst other things. Sleep is vital for a healthy body and in children and teenagers, it also helps to support their growth and development. Some research has shown that children who sleep less are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular problems, along with high blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity problems in later years.
- Adults need around 7-9 hours of sleep a night
- Children need around 10-12 hours of sleep a night. Babies and toddlers under 3 need even more.
- Sleep boosts immunity - Your bedtime can often be blamed if you find yourself catching the cold or flu on a regular basis. Prolonged lack of sleep can disrupt your immune system, making it harder for your body to fend off bugs.
- Sleep can help you stay slim - Sleeping less can cause you to gain weight! Studies have shown that people who sleep less than seven hours a day are 30% more likely to be obese than those who get nine hours or more of sleep.
- Sleep improves mental wellbeing - A single sleepless night can often make you irritable and moody the following day. Ongoing lack of sleep may lead to long-term mood disorders including anxiety and depression.
- Sleep reduces the risk of diabetes - Various studies have suggested that individuals who usually get less than five hours of sleep a night are more likely to develop diabetes.
- Sleep wards off heart disease - Not getting enough sleep over a long period of time often appears to be associated with increased heart rate, an increase in blood pressure and higher levels of certain chemicals linked with inflammation, which may put extra strain on your heart.
- Sleep increases fertility - Lack of sleep can make it more difficult to conceive a baby. This affects both men and women.
Did you know that what you do during the day can also affect the quality of your sleep?
- Try to find some time to get outside in natural daylight, especially in the morning.
- Exercise during the day or early evening.
- Try to set a both a regular bedtime and time to get up – this also includes the weekend!
- Try incorporating some sleepy foods into your diet:
Think about your sleeping environment:
- When it’s time for bed, make your room completely dark. This can be achieved with a blackout blind or curtains, an additional window dressing, or even an eye mask.
- Maintain a comfortable temperature in your bedroom. If you’re too hot or too cold, you won’t sleep soundly.
- A tidy room makes for a tidy mind… and a restful night’s sleep!
- Don’t treat your bedroom like an extension of the rest of your house. That means you shouldn’t use it for work, watching TV, eating or talking on the phone.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as Squared Breathing
What to avoid:
- Caffeine, especially in the late afternoon and evening.
- Technology in the bedroom, for example TV, computers, tablets and your mobile phone.
- Eating too late at night, especially a heavy meal. Try to finish eating at least two hours before your bedtime.
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a relatively common condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing.
These pauses in breathing reduce the amount of oxygen the person gets and causes them to wake up frequently. The person may not realise they are waking up many times each night, but the regularly interrupted sleep can have a big impact on quality of life and increases the risk of developing certain conditions:
- Developing high blood pressure (hypertension)
- Having a stroke or heart attack
- Developing an irregular heartbeat – such as atrial fibrillation
- Developing type 2 diabetes – although it's unclear if this is the result of an underlying cause, such as obesity
Who develops Sleep Apnoea?
You are more likely to get sleep apnoea:
- If you have a family history of OSA, are a man and over 40 years of age – although OSA can occur at any age, it's more common in people who are over 40.
- If you drink alcohol – particularly before going to sleep, can make snoring and sleep apnoea worse.
- If you smoke and/or are overweight.
- The menopause (in women).
- Other medical reasons.
How can I prevent and treat obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)?
OSA is a treatable condition, and there are a variety of treatment options available.
If you suspect you have sleep apnoea, please see your GP.
Lifestyle changes can help prevent and reduce the symptoms of sleep apnoea:
- Lose weight if you are overweight
- Limit alcohol and avoid drinking it in the evenings
- Quit smoking if you smoke
- Comply with doctor’s advice and treatment plan
You can find out more about Obstructive Sleep Apnoea on the NHS Website.
For local services: www.sleep-apnoea-trust.org
Our Online Well Checks include a lifestyle assessment and give you the opportunity to speak to one of our qualified health promotion officers about any concerns you have around your sleeping patterns, and receive personalised tips and advice.