Cardiovascular System, Circulatory System, Healthy Living, Matters of the Heart

What Lack of Sleep Can Do to Your Heart?


This is a very long overdue post that I have intended to share several months back. So now that I have gotten the time to pick up my pen and write, I want to share my thoughts with you on this post that I read way back from last year. This post is a bit long, but please read to the end because it may save you or someone you know from a serious heart attack.

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Take Care of Your Heart

This is a repost from a blog in Mumbai, India:

“Ranjan Das, CEO and MD of SAP-Indian subcontinent died after a massive cardiac arrest in Mumbai recently. One of the youngest CEOs, he was only 42.”

What killed Ranjan Das?

He was very active in sports, was a fitness freak and a marathon runner. After his workout, he collapsed with a massive heart attack and died. He is survived by his wife and two very young kids. It was certainly a wakeup call for corporate India. However, it was even more disastrous for runners. The question arises as to why an exceptionally active athletic person succumbed to a heart attack at 42 years of age.

What is the real reason?

Everyone missed out a small line in the reports that Ranjan used to manage with 4-5 hours of sleep. In an earlier interview of Ranjan on NDTV in the program “Boss day out”, Ranjan Das himself admitted that he sleeps less and would love to get more sleep.

Short sleep duration (<5 or 5-6 hours) increases risk for BP by 350% to 500% compared to those who slept longer than 6 hours per night.

Young people (25-49 years of age) are twice as likely to get high BP if they sleep less. Individuals who sleep less than 5 hours a night have a 3-fold increased risk of heart attacks.

Just one night of sleep loss increases very toxic substances in body such as Interleukin-6 (IL-6). Tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and C-reactive protein (CRP). They also cause cancer, arthritis and heart disease.

Sleeping for <=5 hours per night leads to 39% increase in heart disease. Sleeping for <=6 hours per night leads to 8% increase in heart disease.

What is ideal sleep?

In brief, sleep is composed of two stages: REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and non-REM. The former helps in mental consolidation while the latter helps in physical repair and rebuilding. No wonder when one wakes up with an alarm clock after 5-6 hours of sleep, he/she is mentally irritable throughout the day (lack of REM sleep).

And if somebody has slept for less than 5 hours, the body is a complete physical mess (lack of non-REM sleep), the person is tired throughout the day and immunity is way down.

In conclusion:

Barring stress control, Ranjan Das did everything right: eating proper food, exercising, and maintaining proper weight. But he missed getting proper and adequate sleep, minimum 7 hours. That killed him.

We are playing with fire if we a sleeping less than 7 hours even if we have low stress.

Do not set your alarm clock under 7 hours. Ranjan Das is not alone.

From: N. Silva (Senior Cardiologist)

My personal thoughts on this:

Instead of talking about how shocking this news was, let me focus on what can be done to avoid it. Personally, when I sleep for less than 7 hours at night; my body gives me a host of negative signals from migraine headaches, stomach upsets, palpitations, chest heaviness to shortness of breath. When this occurs, my automatic self-remedy is to pay off all my sleep debt just how my cardiologist taught me.

How sleep debt works?

So, when I owe myself one hour of sleep for each weekday (Monday to Friday), I add 5 more hours on top of my regular 7 or 8 hours of sleep on weekends (Saturday and Sunday) to pay off my accumulated sleep debt.

Here is a sample computation:

Monday to Friday (6 hours sleep each night) = 5 hours of sleep debt

Saturday and Sunday (8 hours per night) = 16 hours + 5 hours

Total number of required hours of sleep on weekends (21 hours/2) = 10.5 hours

This strategy really works for me because after banking on my sleep hours, I feel refreshed mentally, emotionally and physically, and most importantly, the symptoms are gone.

Additional Tips on How to Improve Sleep

“Falling asleep may seem like an impossible dream when you’re awake at 3 a.m., but good sleep is more under your control than you might think. Following healthy sleep habits can make the difference between restlessness and restful slumber. Researchers have identified a variety of practices and habits—known as “sleep hygiene”—that can help anyone maximize the hours they spend sleeping, even those whose sleep is affected by insomnia, jet lag, or shift work.” Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School

Here are “Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep” according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and WGBH Educational Foundation:

  1. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, Nicotine, and Other Chemicals that Interfere with Sleep
  2. Turn Your Bedroom into a Sleep-Inducing Environment
  3. Establish a Soothing Pre-Sleep Routine
  4. Go to Sleep When You’re Truly Tired
  5. Don’t Be a Night-time Clock-Watcher
  6. Use Light to Your Advantage
  7. Keep Your Internal Clock Set with a Consistent Sleep Schedule
  8. Nap Early—Or Not at All
  9. Lighten Up on Evening Meals
  10. Balance Fluid Intake
  11. Exercise Early
  12. Follow Through

These tips are all self-explanatory and my guess is, everybody already knows most of them. So if you ask me what’s the most important one? It is the follow through; meaning, you have to start somewhere and then continuously and consistently do it every day. You may find difficulty following everything at the start, so what you can do is follow one suggestion after another and whatever works for you, be committed to doing it religiously.

Lastly, here’s one thing that was not mentioned on the list, but works effectively for me; I spend some quiet moments alone in my room to either read a favorite book, to have small chat with my husband or best of all, to say a short prayer of thanksgiving for all the day’s accomplishments.

I do encourage you to take a self-evaluation of your sleep pattern and make the necessary adjustments on your sleep hygiene; also, share this with your loved ones or someone you know who can benefit from living with a strong and healthy heart!

Media Graphic Credits:
It’s Your Heart—Take care of it: https://alanfitness.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/its-your-heart-take-care-of-it/