Is your bedtime affecting your heart health?
In a culture where naps and resting are seen as a sign as laziness, the importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Getting enough quality sleep is just as critical for good health as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
It’s not just about getting rest. Several very beneficial things happen while you sleep:
- Your blood pressure goes down and your heart rate slows. Both of these are crucial for heart health, and neither happen without adequate sleep. Research has found that poor sleep habits are a big risk factor in the development of cardiovascular disease.1
- Improve your mental function. If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter, then you know all too well how poorly your brain works on little-to-no sleep. Doing this once in a blue moon isn’t going to have any long-term ramifications on your health. But night after night of poor sleep can absolutely have long-lasting effects on how well your brain is able to function. The longer and more severe your “sleep debt,” the worse your short-term memory and the slower your reaction time and mental processing become.
- Enhance your immunity. Sleep deprivation causes your body to produce inflammatory compounds, which leads to systemic inflammation and an increased risk of inflammatory conditions like heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Conversely, a full night of good-quality sleep leads to higher production of compounds that aid in the body’s immune response against infections and pathogens.
For all these reasons—and many more—sleep should be a priority in everyone’s life. Even so, many Americans would fully admit that they don’t get enough shut-eye.
And, unfortunately, it’s not just the amount of sleep you get (or don’t get) that could be affecting your health—it’s also the consistency of your bedtime routine.
According to a new study out of Notre Dame, there is a link between bedtime regularity and elevated resting heart rate. Researchers found that people who go to bed even half an hour later than their usual bedtime experienced a significantly higher resting heart rate that persisted even into the following day.2
What Is Resting Heart Rate?
Resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in one minute while you’re at rest. It is considered a real-time “snapshot” of how well your heart functions.
Generally speaking, a lower resting heart rate means your heart is more efficiently pumping blood throughout your body.
The American Heart Association considers a resting heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute “normal” for adults. But your normal can be very different from another person’s. For instance, your average may be 75, but it’s not unusual for a well-conditioned athlete like a marathoner or Olympian to have a resting heart rate that’s well below 60.
However, for most people, a resting heart rate over 100 is considered very high, and it translates to increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
In this study, the research team analyzed Fitbit data from 557 college students over four years, for a total of 255,736 sleep sessions. They examined the participants’ bedtimes, amount of sleep, and resting heart rate.
They observed that going to bed just 30 minutes later than normal was associated with “significantly higher resting heart rate throughout sleep.” This persisted well into the morning, even until early evening of the next day!
Interestingly, going to bed one hour earlier than normal had the same effect on resting heart rate, but it leveled out and returned to normal during the overnight hours. A 30-minute-earlier bedtime, however, had little adverse effect.
The researchers wrote that, “These observations stress the importance of maintaining proper sleep habits, beyond sleep duration, as high variability in bedtimes may be detrimental to one’s cardiovascular health.”
In other words, it’s not just the amount of sleep you get that’s important, it’s the consistency of your bedtime routine.
How to Get Better, More Consistent Sleep
Getting to bed at the same time every night can be a challenge. And it’s definitely not going to happen every single evening for the rest of your life. But you can try to focus on creating a consistent bedtime routine during the weekdays—then a separate routine on weekends, since it’s pretty common to stay up later on Friday or Saturday nights.
Here are some tips to create a more regular routine:
- What time do you usually head to bed and find that you easily fall asleep? That should be your weekday bedtime. Decide on a time and stick to it. Also try to wake up around the same time each morning.
- Create a relaxing nighttime ritual. Put down your electronics (blue light activates the brain and can adversely affect sleep), turn off the TV, and do something that helps you relax—meditation, reading, listening to soft music, etc. Make it a habit to do this for about 15-30 minutes before you close your eyes for the night.
- Evaluate your bedroom to make sure your sleep isn’t being disrupted by too much light, noise, or heat (ideally, your room temp for the overnight hours should be in the 60s). Also make sure your pillows and mattress are comfortable and supportive. If your mattress is 10 or more years old, it’s time to replace it.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and big meals at least three hours before bedtime.
- If you still have trouble with sleep, or creating a consistent bedtime, consider taking a natural sleep aid that helps promote healthier sleep cycles. Newport Natural Health’s Sleep Solution Plus contains a combination of herbs and the sleep hormone melatonin to help relax and quiet the mind so you can fall asleep quickly. And sleep soundly through the night (people report waking up feeling recharged and refreshed—never groggy).
There’s so little we can control in this crazy, unpredictable world. But your sleep habits are one area you have full control over—and improving them can go a long way to bettering your heart, immune, mental, and overall physical health.
- Nagai M, et al. Sleep duration as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease—a review of the recent literature. Curr Cardiol Rev. 2010 Feb;6(1):54-61. Last accessed May 26, 2020.
- Faust L, et al. Deviations from normal bedtimes are associated with short-term increases in resting heart rate. npj Digital Magazine. 2020 March 23;3(39). Last accessed May 21, 2020.