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The importance of a decent snooze
A recently published piece of research in The European Journal of Preventative Cardiology looked into eating healthily, exercising, not smoking and drinking in a moderate way and how these affected people's risk when it came to cardiovascular disease (CVD).
More than 14,000 people were involved in the research, which discovered that ticking off all four of these things was linked to a lowered risk of getting cardiovascular disease - by a factor of 57 per cent.
But sleeping well was also found to be linked to lower cardiovascular disease risk, something that perhaps suggests this is an even more important part of healthy living than you might have imagined!
People in the study who had seven hours of sleep each night (or longer), as well as exercising, eating healthily, drinking moderately and not being smokers, saw a 65 per cent smaller CVD risk.
"Sleep is as essential to our health as eating, drinking and breathing. Poor sleep can increase the risks of poor mental health, and can lead to a range of illnesses such as depression and anxiety," the Mental Health Foundation's Dr Dan Robotham said back in 2011.
Explaining the importance of sleeping well, he said that sleeping poorly could impact in a big way on people's mental wellbeing as well as other aspects of their lives. Sleeping is vital to people's relationships, how they feel and their concentration, he explained.
"Not only does poor sleep put you at an increased risk of suffering from depression and anxiety, but it can also increase your chances of developing immune deficiency and heart disease, so getting a good night's sleep is important for maintaining good mental and physical health," Dr Robotham said.
But when it comes to the recent study, one expert has said that more research is required in order for people to understand fully how sleeping behaviour is linked to people's hearts.
Speaking on the British Heart Foundation website, the charity's senior cardiac nurse explained: “This research shows that combining a good night’s sleep with other healthy lifestyle choices can reduce your risk of heart disease. But troubled sleepers should not be alarmed - this study doesn’t mean sleepless nights cause heart disease."
Pointing out that the research collected info on people's lifestyles via questionnaires, a method which isn't "the most reliable", she said: "We need to see further research to fully understand the link between sleeping habits and your heart."
The expert also gave some tips for people who find falling asleep difficult, saying keeping away from the caffeine - and not indulging in heavy meals - too near to bedtime might be able to help.
She also advised those for whom too little sleep is causing problems to be sure to speak to a doctor about this.