Sleeping to Improve Your Health

sleepy

Getting too much or too little sleep has been tied to increased stress levels and blood pressure, and it even limits our ability to fight ailments such as a cold or the flu.

If sleep is something you’re struggling with, consider talking to your doctor. Until then, check out this information about how your sleep is linked to other health concerns:

Naps in the afternoon may lower your blood pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) can be caused by stress, poor diet, inactivity, or even genetics, and it’s way more common than most people think. The goal is to keep your blood pressure at around 120/80, and sleep is one way to accomplish this.

Manolis Kallistratos, MD, of the Asklepieion Voula General Hospital in Athens, Greece, recently completed a study about taking naps in the afternoon and the effect on patients with high blood pressure. Dr. Kallistratos found that napping patients were able to reduce their risk of cardiovascular events (such as a heart attack) by up to 10 percent. These patients also required fewer medications to manage hypertension.

So the next time your boss catches you snoozing in your office, try explaining how you’re working proactively to reduce your blood pressure. After all, naps of 20-30 minutes (but not longer) are recommended by the U.S. National Sleep Foundation.

Not getting enough sleep increases your chance of catching a cold

As cold and flu season approaches, many people start becoming more aware of ways to help prevent getting sick. There are a bunch of things we can do to stay healthy, but not many of us think about adding sleep to the mix.

In a recent study, researchers found that participants who slept fewer than six hours per night were 4.5 times more likely to get sick than people who got seven or more hours of sleep. This year, in addition to improving the frequency and quality of your handwashing habits, consider catching a few more Z’s each night. Even adding 30-60 minutes each night can improve your overall health.

Can’t sleep? It may be easy to learn why.

If you’re struggling with sleep, or if you’re sleeping 8-9 hours each night and still feel exhausted in the morning, you may want to consider being evaluated for sleep-related disorders.

"In many cases sleep disorders affect more than just sleep quality, says Kevin Walker, MD, a sleep disorder specialist with the Intermountain Sleep Disorders Center at LDS Hospital. “Some disorders, like sleep apnea, can contribute to a wide variety of other health problems like hypertension, heart attack, diabetes, stroke, and mood and memory problems."  

Sleep-related problems affect about 40 million Americans each year, but they aren’t something you have to live with. Many treatments can help to dramatically improve your sleep quality and your health in general. Talk to your doctor to see what options are available and get back on track with your sleep health. 

For more information visit the Intermountain Sleep Disorders Centers.