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How REM Sleep Affects Your Heart

February is Heart Awareness Month and you’ve probably heard all about how diet and exercise can keep your heart healthy by now. But, did you know that sleep directly correlates to heart health? REM and non-REM sleep is actually crucial for your heart rate. In this article, we will go over how this affects your heart health and different ways seniors can achieve better sleep. 

Heart Rate During The Stages of Sleep 

Each cycle or phase of sleep affects the speed of your heart rate and contributes to the health of your heart. When we first drift off to sleep, our heart rate starts to slow down to its resting rate – meaning our hearts don’t have to work so hard to pump blood throughout our bodies. This stage of light sleep (or Non-REM sleep) is how most of us spend half of the night. 

When we enter the next phase of sleep, deep sleep, our blood pressure drops and our heart rate slows even more – up to 30% below the resting rate. Then there is an even deeper sleep REM (rapid eye movement) that happens when we dream. During REM sleep, the sympathetic nervous system is activated, causing an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. This is thought to be a protective mechanism to help the body respond to potential danger or stressful situations – like being chased in a bad dream.

So, what does this all really mean? In short, entering each stage of sleep successfully every night allows the heart to properly rest and recharge. This is so important because poor sleeping patterns have been linked to a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease and strokes. If you or a loved one is having trouble sleeping well, our caregivers in Morris County have put together a list of different ways older adults can improve their sleeping habits. 

Ways Seniors Can Sleep Better

  1. Change your bedroom environment. The best sleep happens when your bedroom is dark, quiet, comfortable and set at a cooler temperature. It can help to invest in some ear plugs, a sleep mask, and warm blankets. You should also eliminate anything that can distract you from sleeping in your bedroom like TV, books, space heaters or bright and loud alarm clocks.

  2. Establish a solid sleeping schedule. Sticking to the same bedtime and wake up time everyday will train your body to enter all the stages of sleep. Also avoid staying up later on weekends, as it can derail the progress you made to improve your sleep.

  3. Start a new bedtime ritual that promotes deep relaxation. Taking a warm bubble bath, listening to calming music, or even some light yoga and meditation can get you into the right, calm state of mind before going to bed.

  4. Try to avoid sleeping medications. Sleeping medications are a temporary solution to a bigger problem. They do not directly address and remediate the root cause of insomnia in older adults. Plus, there can be unfavorable side effects that can actually keep you up at night – the exact opposite of their intent. Try to figure out the root cause of your sleep issues, oftentimes it can just be a change to your lifestyle that is standing in the way of a good night’s sleep. 

Healthy senior lifestyles at Lester in Morris County

At Lester Senior Living, our seniors sleep more soundly knowing that one of our staff members is always onsite, and ready to help if the need arises. We can also help residents improve their sleeping habits by changing their bedroom environment and discussing what actions they could take to achieve better sleep. 

For more information about how we can help seniors sleep better, or if you have any questions about our assisted living in Morris County, please contact us today by visiting our website at: https://jchcorp.org