Life’s Essential 8: Here’s Why Proper Sleep Duration is Now Part of the Heart Health Checklist

Proper sleep duration of 7 to 9 hours a night for adults, and more for children, is now considered an essential component for healthy living, according to the newly updated “Life’s Essential 8” factors for achieving optimum cardiovascular health from the American Heart Association (AHA).   

The AHA has replaced its Life’s Simple 7, established in 2010, with Life’s Essential 8 after a review of clinical studies that highlighted the importance of sleep health. The other factors, four of which were expanded this year, are: Managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol and triglycerides, reducing blood sugar, exercising regularly, healthy eating, weight management (BMI of 18.5–24.9); and not smoking or vaping or being exposed to secondhand smoke.

The addition of sleep health the AHA’s checklist validates the importance of sleep in overall health says Harneet Walia, M.D., medical director of Sleep Medicine and Continuous Improvement at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute.

Harneet Walia, M.D., medical director of Sleep Medicine and Continuous Improvement at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute.

“Sometimes, patients are just not aware of the importance of sleep,” said Dr. Walia. “And in the modern world, we often put sleep on back burner. But this action by the AHA places sleep on the forefront. And validates the point that we cannot cut sleep as doing so has adverse health consequences. We are talking about a healthy lifestyle, which encompasses seven to nine hours of sleep on a regular basis for adults.”

Dr. Walia expects to see more patients with sleep health issues based on the news of the AHA’s updated metrics.

“Our work at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute on sleep health in the cardiac setting has been reinforced,” she said. “Our cardiology colleagues work in a unique setting where sleep health is embedded as part of a comprehensive and wholesome cardiac program. We are one of the very few.”

The new sleep metric recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for optimal cardiovascular health for adults, and more for children depending on age, states the AHA.  Ideal daily sleep ranges for children are 10-16 hours per 24 hours for ages 5 and younger; 9-12 hours for ages 6-12 years; and 8-10 hours for ages 13-18 years.

Sleep Health is Multifaceted

“The new metric of sleep duration reflects the latest research findings,” stated American Heart Association President Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., who led the advisory writing group for Life’s Essential 8, in a news release. “Sleep impacts overall health, and people who have healthier sleep patterns manage health factors such as weight, blood pressure or risk for Type 2 diabetes more effectively.”

Studies have found that only one-third of all Americans get an adequate amount of sleep daily. Common sleep disorders linked to cardiovascular health include insomnia, restless leg syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and insufficient sleep syndrome.  OSA is caused by a temporary collapse of the airways in the throat while sleeping.

“Sleep is multifaceted and has multiple dimensions,” explains Dr. Walia. “As the AHA mentions, sleep duration is important. But there’s also sleep efficiency, sleep quality, the timing, the regularity, daytime symptoms related to sleep and the habits around sleep.”

The important of overall cardiovascular health cannot be overstated. Heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. and globally. The AHA’s 2022 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update, outline some troubling statistics. About 121.5 million people in the U.S. have high blood pressure, 100 million are obese, more than 28 million people have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and only 1 in 4 adults reported achieving the physical activity and exercise recommended in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Sleep Hygiene: Habits for a Good Night’s Sleep

“If somebody is not able to get proper sleep quality and duration, it could be due to various factors,” said Dr. Walia. “One could start with doing simple measures that they could incorporate into their regular day-to-day life. It’s important maintaining good sleep hygiene. But if someone has tried and cannot improve their sleep habits, then they should seek medical attention.”

Good sleep habits, sometimes referred to as “sleep hygiene,” can help you get a good night’s sleep every day. Here are some of those habits, according to sleep experts and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Be consistent. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including weekends.
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smart phones, from the bedroom.
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
  • Exercising regularly during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.

Other updates announced by the AHA to Life’s Essential 8 for optimal cardiovascular health include a new guide to assess diet; accounting for exposure to secondhand smoke and vaping; using non-HDL (HDL is the “good” cholesterol) instead of total cholesterol to measure blood lipids; and expanding the blood sugar measure to include hemoglobin A1c, a key measure to assess type 2 diabetes risk.

Learn more about the AHA’s Life’s Essential 8 checklist.

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