You do a lot more than lie down and dream while you’re asleep. During long periods of rest, your heart rate and blood pressure are lowered, giving your heart a nice break too. If you aren’t getting enough rest every night, you aren’t doing your heart any favors. Get your recommended six to eight hours in, or raise your risk of joining one of the estimated 800,000 people that experience a stroke every year.

Sleep and stroke risk

Multiple studies have shown a link between not getting enough sleep and increasing your risk for stroke. One study examined 3,000 adults over the age of 45 and found that those who slept fewer than six hours each night were twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as those who slept six to eight hours each night. Another study of 200,000 people, by the Icahn School of Medicine of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, found that those who slept fewer than five hours had an 83 percent increased risk for stroke compared to the healthy sleepers.

Get better sleep

Even if you have a healthy weight, are young, and don’t smoke, you are raising your stroke risk if you aren’t getting enough sleep. Pick one or two of these tips to add to your nightly routine, and hopefully you’ll get some better shuteye:

Improve your sleeping space. Make sure your room is dark with shades on your windows, or use a sleeping mask. Reduce noise with shut windows or earplugs, and make sure your room is a comfortable temperature.
Follow a regular sleep routine. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Get ready for bed the same way each night to signal to your body it’s time to settle down.
Be conscious of what you eat and drink before sleep. Try to eat your dinner around three hours before your bedtime and avoid caffeinated drinks in the evening and late in the day. It might be smart to stop drinking water a while before sleeping to cut back on nighttime bathroom trips.

A better night’s sleep will mean better heart health. It shouldn’t be too big a sacrifice to fit in one or two more hours of sleep if it means decreasing your stroke risk. You might be losing a couple hours from each day, but you could be adding years to your life.

What do you do to make sure you get enough sleep? Share with the community in the comments below.