Lowering Blood Pressure in Your Sleep?
That’s right, Healthy Sleep habits have shown to lower blood pressure!
When considering your daily activities, which ones are so important that you should devote 30% of your time doing it? Work? Spending time with the family? Both true… However, most people wouldn’t say sleep. But sleeping is more than just “down time”. Missing out on deep sleep can make for irritability and slow or disjointed thinking the next day. Furthermore, over time, too little deep sleep can contribute to high blood pressure.
Read on to learn more about sleep. What it is, why it’s so important and specific strategies you can start TODAY to help improve your sleep.
What is Sleep?
While you may think of sleep as merely “down time”, sleep actually has several distinct stages cycling during the night.
Healthy young and middle-aged adults spend about 20% to 25% of their sleeping hours in the stages known as slow-wave sleep (so called because of the brain waves associated with it). This sleep phase is considered restorative and has been shown to be important for memory and mental performance.
There is growing evidence that slow-wave sleep is also important for heart health as well as metabolism. A 2011 study published in Hypertension, the journal of the American Heart Association, showed that men who spent less than 4% of their sleep time in slow-wave sleep had 83% higher odds of developing high blood pressure (hypertension) than men who spent 17% or more in this restorative state.
Sleep Hygiene 101
Older people tend to get less slow-wave sleep as they age. Healthy sleep habits, or “sleep hygiene” can be an important strategy for preventing high blood pressure.
Being able to quiet the mind and fall asleep easily, as well as fall back asleep once we wake up in the night is really important to our general well-being and especially to our heart health.
Using a simple breathing technique can help. Begin with taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly and gently, and then enjoy the subtle relaxation that comes with keeping attention on the flow of our inhale and exhale. With practice, this is the body’s cue to fall asleep.
Sleep Hygiene is also about establishing a “Sleep Routine”, much like we have a morning routine upon awakening. Establish some rituals as part of your sleep hygiene to signal the body that sleep is coming – utilize breathing techniques, listen to soft music, stretch gently, straighten the pillows, etc. Go to bed at the same time each night, even on weekends. Keep the bedroom quiet, cool and dark. Turn off or turn around any electronic lights, such as a clock. (Turning around the clock keeps us from checking it in the night and becoming restless.) Spend quiet time before going to bed – avoid exercise, drinking or eating for at least 2 hours before bedtime. Sweet dreams.
It is important to remember that going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding alcohol and tobacco before bedtime, and other good “sleep hygiene” can help people sleep longer and probably more deeply.