The American Heart Association (AHA) recently published an update to its checklist for assessing cardiovascular health, called the “Life’s Essential 8,” and sleep duration in now included as a metric.
Poor sleep is a risk factor for death from any cause, and the quality and duration of one’s sleep are connected to aspects of overall health such as mental and cardiometabolic health. While sleep quality has many aspects, including timing, duration, consistency, and more, duration is easily measured, and sleep duration being either too long or too short has been associated with coronary heart disease. Because sleep duration is an easy and reliable metric that is tied to cardiovascular health, it is now considered one of the eight major metrics for measuring heart health.
In addition to the new inclusion of sleep duration in the AHA’s heart health metrics, other factors such as exposure to secondhand smoke and improved dietary guidelines were also included.
The AHA’s president noted that the new metric of sleep duration is consistent with the latest research on sleep and heart health. Sleep duration and quality have a clear impact on overall health, and people who consistently get enough high-quality sleep tend to have better outcomes regarding weight, blood pressure, type 2 diabetes status, and more. Measurements of sleep quality and quantity have also become easier and more reliable with the introduction of small wearable devices that can be used at home.
Given the connection between sleep and overall health, it is important to optimize sleep duration and quality. Tips for restful sleep include avoiding caffeine before bed, going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, getting exercise every day, and keeping your bedroom dark and cool at night.