Why Getting Quality Sleep Is More Important Than Ever

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Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. and globally. And while it's not breaking news to anyone that sleep is a necessary component to living a healthy and happy life, new recommendations from the American Heart Association indicate that sleep duration is now specifically considered an essential component for ideal heart and brain health.

Measured by average hours of sleep per night, AHA now says the ideal level of sleep is 7-9 hours daily for adults; 10-16 hours per 24 hours for ages 5 and younger; 9-12 hours for ages 6-12 years; and 8-10 hours for ages 13-18 years.

"The new metric of sleep duration reflects the latest research findings: sleep impacts overall health, and people who have healthier sleep patterns manage health factors such as weight, blood pressure or risk for Type 2 diabetes more effectively," said American Heart Association President Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., FAHA, who led the advisory writing group and is chair of the department of preventive medicine, the Eileen M. Foell Professor of Heart Research and professor of preventive medicine, medicine and pediatrics at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. "In addition, advances in ways to measure sleep, such as with wearable devices, now offer people the ability to reliably and routinely monitor their sleep habits at home."

According to the Association's 2022 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update, approximately 121.5 million people in the U.S. have high blood pressure, 100 million have obesity, more than 28 million people have Type 2 diabetes, and only 1 in 4 adults reported achieving the physical activity and exercise recommended in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Various research studies over the past two decades indicate more than 80% of all cardiovascular events may be prevented by healthy lifestyle and management of known cardiovascular risk factors.

AHA has updated their Life's Simple 7™ cardiovascular health score to now be Life's Essential 8™ in order to include sleep duration among the key areas measuring an individual's cardiovascular health. The other seven areas include diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, body mass index, blood lipids, blood glucose, and blood pressure.

Knowing how vital it is to get some quality shut eye, revisit some of our tips for getting good sleep:

1. Leave your phone—and anyone else's—charging outside of the bedroom. Get an alarm clock to wake you up, if you need to.
2. The snooze button can be fine. But if it's just disrupting your sleep for half an hour every morning, find a better way to wake up.
3. Have a separate office and bedroom, if possible. If not, do your best to compartmentalize the spaces.
4. Allow yourself time to decompress—maybe even journal—in bed before falling asleep, especially if you're typically so busy you don't have time to process your thoughts and emotions throughout the day.
5. If you're having trouble winding down in bed, establish a comfy spot elsewhere for mellowing out before getting under the covers.
6. Have a daily sleep schedule that you stick to as closely as you can.
7. If you're a new mom, get rest whenever you can, whether that means naps or sleeping when the baby sleeps or whatever else you can do.

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.


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