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Sleep Habits Can Impact Heart Health

November 19, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Sleep Habits Can Impact Heart Health
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

In today's busy society, it can be difficult to get the right amount of sleep. But a lack of sleep can not only make you feel groggy, it can lead to long-term health problems.  In fact, this week women taking part in the Go Red Challenge are working to improve their heart health by focusing on their sleep habits.

Rochelle Rock is like many people and leads a busy schedule. She works full-time, has two kids and is engaged to be married.

"Volunteer opportunities that you do, you have a lot going on in your life," Rock said.

That's why it's no surprise that Rock often doesn't get her full eight hours of sleep each night.

"If I have a lot of things going on during the day and am not able to shut it all off at night, you can struggle with that," Rock said.

But a lack of sleep can actually lead to long-term health problems, including heart disease.

"We've found that long-term affects of sleep deprivation can cause high blood pressure. It also affects hormone levels, which can lead to an increase in appetite and weight gain," Sanford Cardiologist Dr. Kelly Steffen said.

Steffen says that's why it's important to make sleep a priority.

"Make a plan of how you're going to do it, take some relaxation time before you go to bed. Don't think about stressful things or have stressful conversations before you're trying to go to bed," Steffen said.

Some other helpful advice: make your room calm and dark. Exercising can also improve sleep, as long as you work out three or more hours before bedtime.  And don't use your bed as a time to watch TV. Instead, listen to the radio or read.

"It should really be your place to sleep," Steffen said.

It's an effort that's even more important for Rock. She's taking part in the Go Red Challenge to improve her heart health.

"My father had some heart issues. I have high blood pressure. There are things I'm learning to combat that I've already seen some positive affects from things I've learned," Rock said.

So how much sleep do you need?  That depends on each person, but the general recommendation for adults is seven to nine hours.  Children five to ten-years-old need ten to 11 hours, and younger children require even more.

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