Lower Blood Pressure With 5-Step Sleep Routine
And how to find your optimal go to sleep time
Have you ever woken up after a night's sleep following a stressful day and felt like you hardly rested at all? You feel tired and irritated. Your heart is beating faster than usual and you start the day with a headache. Welcome to the world where stress, anxiety, cardio health and sleep are closely intertwined.
According to the US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Yet, 1 in 3 American adults are sleeping less than that. Also, according to the CDC, high blood pressure is closely linked to a lack of sleep. 1 in 3 US adults suffer from hypertension and this proportion is similar in most places around the world .
Sleep Doom Loop
I’ve been in this negative spiral myself. I used to get stressed at work, come home irritated and further upset myself and my family. This led to spikes in evening blood pressure readings. Then I would have a dreadful night, come to work tired, get even more stressed and so the doom loop continued.
Even after I managed to get my hypertension fundamentally under control with slow breathing exercises, aerobic workouts, meditation and yoga, it still took me a few years to work out a strict evening routine which helps me to wake up fully rested and with 120/80 blood pressure readings.
Here are the 5 steps of this routine. Also, below is a bonus tip on how to calculate a time when you need to go to bed to enjoy a restful sleep.
5-Step Better Sleep to Lower Blood Pressure Routine
1. Early dinner and very limited alcohol. I always finish eating by 7pm. This allows for the proper digestion process and helps better sleep. I allow myself a glass or two of wine over dinner with friends once per week but never consume alcohol after 8pm. Alcohol consumed close to sleep time is a guaranteed way to interrupt your sleep at night.
Also aim for a light dinner with as few calories if possible. Consume most of your calories during breakfast and lunch. Do not hesitate to skip an evening meal altogether or have just several portions of fruit. Your digestive system will thank you for this.
2. Evening walk. My family is privileged to live close to a nice park where myself and my wife go for a walk every day at 9pm. Whether it is raining or snowing we very rarely miss our 45 min walks. Sharing news and planning family stuff helps to clear the mind of stressful thoughts.
IMPORTANT: A. No screen time after evening walks to limit exposure to blue light disrupting sleep. B. Evening exercise with a heart rate of more than 70% higher than your usual resting heart rate is not a great idea. It will have a negative impact on your sleep prep.
3. Warm shower. Warm bath before sleep would be even better, but I just do not have patience for it :) Warm shower helps to dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure. It makes us feel more relaxed.
4. Reading. I love reading so I really cherish these 45 minutes of enjoying a good book which helps to clear the mind even further. It is important to avoid a blue light during this pre-sleep time. This means reading either a paper book or an e-book with a paper white screen where you can control the color of the screen and make it warmer.
5. Meditation or sleep story. The last 15 min before falling asleep I enjoy a guided meditation or a sleep story from a mobile app. Sometimes I listen to the meditations and sleep stories which I created for our blood pressure app BreathNow and YouTube channel. Judging by the user feedback they work very well and help listeners to drift smoothly into the dreamland.
Following the above routine means that I am asleep at 11pm. I maintain a full blackout and cool temperature in my bedroom. With my usual waking time of 7am it gives me 8 hours of solid recovery sleep and I feel fresh and full of energy the next day.
Find Your Optimal Go To Sleep Time
Now the bonus part. All of us are different. Some need 8 solid hours of sleep and some can get away with 7. Some easily wake up very early and some prefer a later start to the day. Then there are family and work requirements. How do you adjust the above routine to your schedule and your natural circadian rhythms to allow for sufficient night sleep which, among other things, will help to keep your blood pressure in the healthy range?
You will need to conduct several experiments. Over 2-3 consecutive weekends try to allow yourself to sleep as much as you want. Obviously avoiding disruptions like parties, late dinners and too much alcohol the evening before. Also try to avoid naps during the day as they are likely to skew the results of the experiment.