What Last Night’s Sleep Spells For Your Heart In The Future
We all face those times at work when we have to put in a few extra hours due to things piling up or a special project that landed out of nowhere. For some of us, that can mean working until the wee hours and really paying for it the next day.
Nothing that a few extra hours of “catch up” sleep on the weekend can’t fix, right? Perhaps if it’s a one-time occurrence. But if you find yourself in a pattern of regular sleep deprivation, your body may tell you both now and down the road. Here and now, you’re likely to feel drowsy, stressed, less alert, more distracted, forgetful and simply not performing at your very best. That’s certainly a risk in the present day when you have drive to get to work or operate any kind of machinery.
However, what about the long-term impact on your heart of when you aren’t getting enough zzz’s?
Studies suggest that there is a link between lack of sleep and heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems later on too.
According to findings by the University of Warwick Medical School in England, those who sleep less than six hours a night and have interrupted sleep will stand a 48% greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease. Over 470,000 participants in eight different countries were monitored in the Warwick study.
How much can the workplace help (or hurt)?
Actually, a great amount. By their nature, our workplaces can play a vital role in influencing the amount of sleep we get. Consider that we spend a large portion of our day in a workplace that can be a place of exciting challenges, teamwork and rewards – or it can be one of stress, anger, distrust and yes, late nights.
Those that routinely ask their employees to work far too late and arrive early the next morning could be hurting themselves on two fronts: 1) The short-term productivity and memory of that employee will likely be impacted because they won’t be as “fresh” the next day or subsequent days if there are several late nights and 2) The health of the employee may be impacted in the form of heart disease.
With consequences that are not limited to present day sluggishness and long-term health, it begs the question more than ever, “Is this project worth it?” Or if the pattern is ongoing, “Is this job worth it?”
If you’re a manager, you can ask your employees to do more in the same amount of time, but if doing so causes them to work later (whether by working in the office or taking work home) at the expense of precious sleep, the chronic deprivation may produce the kind of hormones and chemicals in the body that create problems for them later on in life such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. All of which can have an impact on the heart.
Is there a “magic number?”
Everybody is different, but generally speaking, you want to aim for seven hours of sleep per night. This helps ensure you’ll be more alert the next day and minimize the risk to your heart long-term.
By the way, the Warwick study also found that getting too much sleep can actually be a risk for cardiovascular disease long-term too, so don’t make it a regular habit of sleeping more than nine hours per night either!