Everybody knows that getting a good night’s sleep is essential for your health, and a recent study from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph offers yet another piece of evidence supporting the importance of proper shuteye. The researchers uncovered that a disrupted circadian rhythm – your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle – can have a negative impact on your heart.
In particular, shift work was found to disrupt the body’s natural clock, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Lead researcher Prof. Tami Martino explained, “If you disturb rhythms, that has adverse effects on your heart. Our shift-working mice, just left to do their own thing, over time, developed profound heart disease.”
Disturbing the body’s circadian clock, found in every single cell of the body, leads to molecular changes – more specifically, disruptions in microRNA, which helps regulate gene expressions in the heart. (Your tiredness is not just a part of aging.)
If you work shifts or suffer from sleep problems, your body cannot get used to these circadian disruptions, which can result in damage of the heart. Researchers are exploring different way to address these changes brought on by poor sleep, for example, wearing light-blocking glasses to suppress melatonin.
Prof. Martino continued, “There is some thought out there that maybe some people are more genetically predisposed to mornings versus evenings and people tend to self-select for occupations associated with that and they might do a little bit better.”
There are prescription and over-the-counter remedies to aid in sleep problems to help you get back into a routine after shiftwork or even to improve the aftermath of jet lag.
As you can see, along with other heart-healthy habits such as not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress, exercising regularly, and eating well, sleep is an integral part of good heart health. (Eat this, get stronger!)