Is Lack of Sleep Bad for Your Heart? Study Reveals the Truth
Since childhood, we’ve been constantly reminded of the importance of getting enough sleep. When we were young, we were told sleep was important for being happy, growing big and strong, and being able to perform well both physically and mentally.
Now that we’re all grown up, sleep is still important, but for slightly different reasons. Yes, you’ll still feel a lot happier, naturally energized, and better performing when getting a full night’s rest, but there are other things at stake as well, such as your cardiovascular health, mental health, and life span!
In case you weren’t aware, sleep deprivation is associated with increased cardiovascular risk (among other undesirable consequences), and recent estimates indicate that >⅓ of US adults fail to get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.1
Newly published research in Scientific Reports expands on the topic, is lack of sleep bad for your heart – inflammation.
Sleep Deprivation, Inflammation, & Cardiovascular Health
51 healthy females took part in the 6-week randomized crossover study, of which 35 participants completed at least one phase of the trial.
Following two weeks of tracking to confirm each woman’s regular sleep duration (7 to 9 hours daily), the participants were randomized to a 6-week adequate sleep phase or a 6-week mild sleep restriction phase (delaying bedtime by 90 minutes and keeping wake-time constant).
This was followed by a 6-week washout and crossover to the alternate sleep phase. Thus, each woman served as her own control (provided she completed all phases of the trial). Researchers collected samples from the women before and after each 6-week phase of the study to assess various oxidative/antioxidant markers.
At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that the endothelial cells (cells lining our blood vessels) are bombarded by damaging oxidants. At the same time, sleep-deprived cells fail to activate antioxidant responses to clear the destructive molecules.
In other words, sleep deprivation results in cells that are inflamed and dysfunctional, which is a first step in the development of cardiovascular disease.2
Sleep Deprivation & Depression
We’ve all experienced poor mood and motivation coupled with increased feelings of irritation, anxiety, fatigue, and confusion after a night of short sleep. Research also confirms these daily occurrences that we experience.3,4
A recently published study in Translational Psychiatry that analyzed data from over 7,100 men and women with an average age of 65 found that a lack of sleep was associated with an increased risk of developing depressive symptoms.5
The main takeaway here is that you NEED adequate sleep each and every night. Even just a single night of poor sleep can have ill effects, including lower testosterone levels and higher cortisol levels.
Fortunately, there is a naturally occurring substance in the body that’s also available as a dietary supplement that enhances sleep and offers a multitude of other benefits – melatonin.
Melatonin: More Than Sleep
Melatonin is the hormone that’s most often associated with sleep as it sets the body’s circadian rhythm. It’s been dubbed the “hormone of darkness,” since it is secreted in response to the eyes perceiving darkness.6,7
Melatonin’s safety and utility for improving sleep is well established. In addition to regulating the sleep-wake cycle, melatonin also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Newly published research in healthy athletes finds that supplementing with melatonin can decrease oxidative stress, muscle damage, and inflammatory markers.18 Less inflammation and muscle damage enables athletes to train/perform more frequently at a higher level.
Melatonin also controls glucose and lipid metabolism, in addition to several other roles that have been identified, including: 8,9,10,11
- Blood pressure regulation
- Immune function
- Ovarian physiology
- Core body temperature
- Antioxidant defense systems
Melatonin & Cardiovascular Health
Cardiovascular diseases account for approximately 1/3 of all deaths each year.11
A key contributor to the development of cardiovascular disease is oxidative stress, which triggers endothelial dysfunction via oxidative stress-induced mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammatory responses, and reduced levels of nitric oxide.19
Melatonin is a natural antioxidant that has been shown to inhibit oxidative stress and stabilize endothelial function, conferring cardiovascular protection.19
Additional studies indicate that melatonin may be able to scavenge up to 10x the reactive oxygen (ROS) and nitrogen species (RNS) with its metabolites compared with most antioxidants, which may only be able to quench a few ROS.15,16
In addition to scavenging free radicals, melatonin also aids the production of other antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione reductase, peroxidase, glutathione peroxidase, and superoxide dismutase.19
Research notes finds that melatonin is even capable of blocking pro-inflammatory processes acting on cyclooxygenase (COX-2) and enhancing programmed cell death (apoptosis) in aberrant cells, which basically means melatonin helps the body get rid of cells that aren’t functioning properly. And it’s even capable of staving off the damaging effects of UV light.17
Melatonin & Endothelial Function
Endothelial cells line the entire circulatory system and play a crucial role in maintaining cardiovascular homeostasis, attenuating vascular inflammation, controlling blood flow, and regulating vascular tone.28,29
Dysfunction of these cells is the initial step in larger vascular diseases, including cardiovascular disease.
Melatonin receptors have been identified in cardiovascular tissues, and the multiple actions of melatonin within the body led researchers to investigate its role in supporting and protecting the cardiovascular system (which we’ve discussed above).
A comprehensive review of melatonin on cardiovascular risk factors concluded that:20
“...melatonin has been shown to alleviate atherosclerosis, hypertension, myocardial infarction, myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury and heart failure…Many studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of melatonin in prevention and improving cardiovascular risk factors, and this inexpensive and well-tolerated drug can be strongly proposed in different cardiovascular diseases as well as metabolic syndrome.”
Quite simply, melatonin is an incredibly powerful supplement that not only aids sleep quality but also supports cardiovascular health.
How Much Melatonin
Our bodies naturally secrete melatonin every day. The pineal gland produces 0.1-0.9 mg of melatonin per day, while the gut mucosa produces 400 times more melatonin!12,13,1
However, natural biological aging and a number of lifestyle factors can stunt melatonin synthesis, delaying the onset of sleep and resulting in a number of other unwanted effects. Melatonin supplements are well researched and found to be safe and free of serious side effects.
Melatonin has been studied across a wide range of dosages, between 0.3mg, 5mg, 10mg and higher.21
The “trick” is in finding the right dose for you. Some individuals respond more favorably to lower doses of melatonin while others respond better to a slightly higher dose.
7 Ways to Increase Melatonin Naturally and Support Cardiovascular Health
Daily habits can have a profound effect on our bodies’ ability to produce melatonin. Here are 7 lifestyle recommendations to increase melatonin naturally, sleep better, and support cardiovascular health:22
Avoid Blue Light Two Hours Before Bed
Blue light is emitted from all sorts of electronic devices (smartphones, LEDs, tablets, computers, TVs, etc.). It is a type of high-energy light wave that suppresses melatonin production.
Limiting/avoiding exposure to blue light-emitting devices in the hours before bed will naturally increase melatonin levels.
Improve Stress Management
Stress is one of the main reasons millions of individuals struggle to sleep soundly. When we’re stressed, cortisol levels are spiked, which left unchecked can lead to many unsavory effects (e.g., disrupted hormone production, poor sleep, brain fog, lack of motivation, irritability, etc.).
As great as it sounds to never be stressed in life, that’s not entirely possible, but managing how we respond to stress is very feasible. Not only will you enjoy a higher quality of life, but you’ll also find it easier to fall (and stay) asleep at night.
Regular physical activity offers multiple benefits, including cardiometabolic, mental health, and sleep. Ideally, you would perform a mix of resistance training and cardiovascular exercise each week, but any type of physical activity (even just a few walks around the neighborhood each day) is far better than being sedentary.
Spend Time Outdoors
Much like our bodies are made to move and be active, so, too, are they meant to spend time outdoors, in nature.
Exposing our bodies to sunlight, particularly early in the morning after waking, helps to set circadian rhythm, as well as help our bodies naturally synthesize vitamin D – an essential vitamin that impacts immune function, hormone production, and mod.
Furthermore, a 2018 review of “real-time stress response” concluded that spending time outdoors, particularly in “green” areas, may reduce stress and ultimately improve health.23
Reduce Time on Social Media
Social media has helped individuals connect around the globe and increased the spread of information. However, it is not without its downsides.
In fact, increasing use of social media has led to declining mental health, particularly in females.24
Using social media in the evenings can also hurt your ability to sleep soundly on two fronts, in particular – increased stress and stunted melatonin levels (as a result of blue light exposure).
If you want to/must use social media, then try to limit your time spent on it, especially an hour or two before bed.
Eat a Nutritious Diet
Nutrition is the bedrock of human health and longevity. Everything you eat has an effect, to one extent or another, on how you think, feel, perform, and survive.
Certain foods are better for you than others. While you don’t have to eat a 100% “clean” diet, if your focus is on maximizing your long-term health and well-being, then prioritizing your macro and micronutrient intake is essential.
Among the myriad diets that come in and out of the spotlight each year or two, there is one diet that is consistently recognized for its human health benefits – the Mediterranean diet.
Built on a foundation of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats alongside a moderate intake of red wine and limited amounts of red meat, the Mediterranean diet is especially rich in polyphenols and antioxidants that combat oxidative stress and support endothelial function.
Numerous studies have concluded that eating a Mediterranean diet supports overall cardiovascular health.25,26,27
In particular, a 2020 randomized control trial including 1,002 patients with cardiovascular disease, concluded that “...the Mediterranean diet better modulates endothelial function compared with a low-fat diet and is associated with a better balance of vascular homeostasis in CHD patients, even in those with severe endothelial dysfunction.”26
A 2023 meta-analysis including 15 studies and a total of 2,735 participants found that the Mediterranean diet offers significant improvements in endothelial function in both healthy patients and in those with an increased risk of CVD.25
The Mediterranean diet combats the risk of CVD by improving endothelial function in several different ways:30
- Protecting against oxidative stress, inflammation, and platelet aggregation
- Modifying cancer-related hormones and growth factors
- Having a lipid-lowering effect
- Modulating gut microbiota-mediated production of metabolites influencing metabolic health
- Significantly decreasing blood lipid levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), apolipoprotein B, and cholesterol
Go to Bed/Wake Up at the Same Time
Hormones (like melatonin) are secreted at specific times. Not having a consistent bedtime/wake up time will make it more difficult for your body to naturally wind down when it’s supposed to and be alert when necessary.
Figure out what time you need to be out the door in the morning to make it to work on time and start backing out when to wake up. Consider the following:
- Do you want to exercise before, during lunch, or after work?
- Do you shower in the morning or evening?
- How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
With your wake-up time set, count back 8 hours and that’s when you should be asleep. Now, count back one or two more hours, and that is when you should limit your electronics usage (or use blue light-blocking apps) as well as begin your “pre-bed ritual.”
The pre-bed ritual doesn’t have to be anything complicated or fancy, but it includes activities that are calming, such as:
- Taking a warm bath/shower
- Listening to relaxing music
- Having a cup of herbal tea
- Stretching/light yoga
- Taking nighttime supplements
The more relaxed you are when you lie down, the quicker you’ll fall asleep, and the better you’ll feel in the morning!
Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death around the world, and research has found a strong association between sleep deprivation and an increased risk of CVD.
AML Calming Cocktail supplies a full, research-backed dose of 10mg melatonin per full serving. †
AML Calming Cocktail is a comprehensive, nighttime relaxation aid formulated to help manage stress and anxiety while simultaneously encouraging relaxation and more restorative sleep. AML Calming Cocktail is a natural alternative to other agents typically used to “take the edge off” at night that doesn’t come with the habituation, tolerance, or unwanted side effects. †
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
© Published by Advanced Research Media, Inc. 2023
© Reprinted with permission from Advanced Research Media, Inc.
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- Tomaso CC, Johnson AB, Nelson TD. The effect of sleep deprivation and restriction on mood, emotion, and emotion regulation: three meta-analyses in one. 2021 Jun 11;44(6):zsaa289. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsaa289. PMID: 33367799; PMCID: PMC8193556.
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- Hamilton, O.S., Steptoe, A. & Ajnakina, O. Polygenic predisposition, sleep duration, and depression: evidence from a prospective population-based cohort. Transl Psychiatry 13, 323 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-023-02622-z
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