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An adequate amount of sleep is vital for the body to function at an optimal level

Sleep is important in regulating mood and assists in the memory and learning functions. Getting enough sleep will assist you to stay focused and on task, learn new skills and information and may also help control your weight and energy levels.

Sleeping well will help you to manage your activities throughout the day and keep you alert and motivated.It assists in regulating the body’s hormones and contributes to a healthy immune system. Sleep is important for an overall good quality life.

Following a heart event you can feel anxious and emotional. This can affect the quality of sleep you have each night. For some they may experience episodes of insomnia and nightmares. If you don’t get enough quality sleep, you may struggle to function the next day and your concentration and focus in work and life activities may be limited. It can even impact on your health, causing weight gain.

Four steps to better sleep

1. Exercise

Exercise promotes quality sleep. It will help you fall asleep quicker and sleep longer. Exercise for many is an important component of their cardiac rehabilitation and should be part of everyday activity. It is important you follow your exercise programme, not just for your heart health but to promote good quality sleep.

2. Avoid stimulants before bed

Stimulants are foods such as coffee, sugary drinks and chocolate. Stimulants affect both the brain and the body. Caffeine (in coffee) and sugar will stimulate the brain to increase alertness therefore making it harder to “switch off” and sleep. They also cause an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar, constricting blood vessels. This causes the body to be in a state of heightened awareness, making it more difficult to relax.

3. Prepare for sleep

You need to switch off before retiring to bed. Ideally turn off the TV or computer and read a book or practice meditation. Having a hot bath can promote relaxation. Drinking a glass of herbal tea before bed can help, too.

4. Avoid sleep medication

While some sleeping pills may help in the short term, people can become dependent on them and require them to help sleep all the time. Side effects can impact quality of life also.

So, be sure you work with your doctor to determine why you aren’t sleeping. Ensure your doctor knows about all your medications. And take sleeping medications only with medical supervision as clearly indicated.If you are having trouble sleeping and this is impacting on your quality of life, talk to you doctor or nurse.

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Did you know?

Studies have shown that the majority of people need around six to eight hours of sleep each night and that and that not enough sleep can increase your risk of heart problems.

The one-third of our lives that we spend sleeping, far from being “unproductive,” plays a direct role in how full, energetic and successful the other two-thirds of our lives can be.Dr Gina Lundberg
Dr Gina LundbergCardiologist, American Heart Association

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