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Catching Some Zzzzzs

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
January 18, 2024
April 30, 2024

Don't want to read? Watch the video below.

Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Hypertension and Sleep

There is a clear link between the amount of sleep someone gets and their risk of high blood pressure. In a recent study, researchers found that sleeping less than six hours a night increases the risk of hypertension by 20%.

Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night to support heart health.

Quality sleep is extra important in helping your body reset, and keeping blood pressure under control.

Try 30-minute wind-down sessions before bedtime, such as reading, meditation, or taking a warm bath for better sleep.

In another study, researchers found that people who only slept six hours the previous night are shown to have higher blood pressure the next day as compared to those who had a great night’s sleep. Continued lack of sleep can only compound this effect. Without proper sleep to revitalize your body, you could be stressing yourself without even realizing it until it is too late. Try to aim for around 7 hours of sleep per night.

Take a routine afternoon nap if your sleep at night is often disrupted.

If you suffer from sleep apnea, having hypertension can be an added headache. Sleep apnea is caused, most commonly, by the back of the throat relaxing and restricting airflow into the body. Those suffering from sleep apnea were more at risk of having high blood pressure.

When suffering from hypertension and sleep apnea together, oxygen flowing through the body is greatly reduced. Sleep apnea can increase blood pressure by reducing oxygen that you are intaking. The higher your blood pressure climbs, the more at risk you are for serious health problems like congestive heart failure and stroke.

Diabetes and Sleep

Diabetes and sleep problems often go hand in hand. Diabetes can cause sleep loss, and there’s evidence that not sleeping well can increase your risk of developing diabetes.

One of the most serious health consequences that comes from disrupted, poor quality sleep is a significantly increased risk for diabetes. The relationship between sleep and diabetes is complicated, and scientists are still working to understand all the ways that sleep and circadian rhythms (also known as your internal biological clock) affect this disease. That said, we have some hints, since we know sleep has a powerful connection to metabolism (how our body uses food for energy), to hormones that regulate appetite and eating patterns, and to the body’s use of blood sugar and insulin.

High blood sugar is also a red flag for sleep problems among people with diabetes for another reason. People who are more tired will eat more because typically their hunger hormones are off-balanced, causing them to crave more even when their body doesn't need it.  That can mean consuming sugar or other foods that can spike blood sugar levels.

Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells do not properly use the insulin. When insulin is not doing its job, high blood sugar levels build in the body to the point where they can harm the eyes, kidneys, nerves, or heart.

Tips on How to Sleep Better

  1. Stop hitting the snooze-try to maintain a consistent pattern of sleep as much as possible
  2. Let the sun shine - keep it bright inside during the day and get outside
  3. Drink less caffeine - especially avoid later in the day;
  4. Hold the water - drink plenty of water early, but less before going to bed so you don't have to get up too much for the toilet
  5. Skip the nightcap - alcohol can suppress melatonin, the hormone that helps make us tired (maybe take a melatonin supplement before bed can help);
  6. Change your bulbs - some light bulbs produce blue light that keep us from getting sleepy (again decreases melatonin);
  7. Wear blue glasses - special filtering glasses or screen to block certain light rays (that again suppresses melatonin);
  8. Slip on socks - warm feet can help you sleep better;
  9. Workout - exercise helps with sleep and decreases stress.

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