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Getting a good night’s rest can be challenging, as many people juggle their careers or academics, social relationships and family responsibilities. This is particularly true for people living with the lifelong sleep disorder narcolepsy, which is characterized by the inability to stay awake and alert during the day, resulting in periods of irrepressible need for sleep or unintended lapses into sleep.1-4 Not only can narcolepsy impact a person’s daily life, it can also have a far-reaching impact on long-term health and well-being, with research showing an increase in prevalence of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety compared to people without narcolepsy.5-8 It’s important for everyone, including those with narcolepsy, to make healthy lifestyle choices to maximize their heart health. In honor of World Narcolepsy Day and World Heart Day, read on for tips to get heart-healthy sleep.
1. Monitor daily sodium consumption
Excess sodium intake is associated with increased blood pressure, which in turn is a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease.9-13 It’s recommended that daily sodium intake not exceed 2,300 milligrams, with an ideal limit of less than 1,500 milligrams for most adults.14 Since these limits can be easily met or exceeded due to the high sodium content of certain foods and beverages, it is important to monitor daily sodium consumption.15
2. Get active
It’s recommended to get regular exercise throughout the week to get your heart pumping and further lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease. This includes brisk walking or running, biking, swimming, dancing or tennis for 30 minutes per day.16 Remember to speak with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen.
3. Eat a heart-healthy diet
It’s important to eat nutritious foods to improve and maintain your heart health.16 This includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, skinless poultry and lean meats, low-fat dairy products and fish. Limit or avoid saturated and trans fats, salt and added sugar. Remember to speak with your doctor before starting a diet or nutrition regimen.
4. Be mindful of different medications
Although food and beverages may be the obvious sources of sodium consumption, some medications, including those used to treat narcolepsy symptoms, also contain high levels of sodium.15,17 This can contribute to the total amount of daily sodium intake for people living with narcolepsy, so it’s vital they are aware of how medications can also impact their heart health.
5. Develop a bedtime routine
Although it can be difficult for people with narcolepsy to get into a good sleep rhythm based on the nature of the condition, developing a sleep routine could help with reducing stress levels before bed and comorbid risks.18,19 This includes setting a bedtime, taking a warm bath, avoiding screen time immediately before bed, listening to music and sleeping in a dark and cool room.
6. Don’t smoke
Smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease.16
- Thorpy MJ. Recently approved and upcoming treatments for narcolepsy. CNS Drugs. 2020;34(1):9-27. doi:10.1007/s40263-019-00689-1
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Narcolepsy Fact Sheet. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Narcolepsy-Fact-Sheet. Accessed July 2020.
- Zhang J, Han F. Sleepiness in narcolepsy. Sleep Med Clin. 2017;12(3):323-330. doi:10.1016/j.jsmc.2017.03.008
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The International Classification of Sleep Disorders. Third Edition (ICSD-3). 2014.
- Black J, Reaven NL, Funk SE, et al. Medical comorbidity in narcolepsy: findings from the Burden of Narcolepsy Disease (BOND) study. Sleep Med. 2017;33:13-18. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2016.04.004
- Ohayon MM. Narcolepsy is complicated by high medical and psychiatric comorbidities: a comparison with the general population. Sleep Med. 2013;14(6):488-492. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2013.03.002
- Cohen A, Mandrekar J, St Louis EK, Silber MH, Kotagal S. Comorbidities in a community sample of narcolepsy. Sleep Med. 2018;43:14-18. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2017.11.1125
- Jennum P, Ibsen R, Knudsen S, Kjellberg J. Comorbidity and mortality of narcolepsy: a controlled retro- and prospective national study. Sleep. 2013;36(6):835-840. doi:10.5665/sleep.2706
- Farquhar WB, Edwards DG, Jurkovitz CT, Weintraub WS. Dietary sodium and health: more than just blood pressure. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;65(10):1042-1050. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2014.12.039
- Kokubo Y, Matsumoto C. Hypertension is a risk factor for several types of heart disease: review of prospective studies. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017 ;956:419-426. DOI: 10.1007/5584_2016_99.
- Kjeldsen SE. Hypertension and cardiovascular risk: General aspects. Pharmacol Res. 2018;129:95-99. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2017.11.003
- Elliott P, Stamler J, Nichols R, et al. Intersalt revisited: further analyses of 24 hour sodium excretion and blood pressure within and across populations. Intersalt Cooperative Research Group [published correction appears in BMJ 1997 Aug 23;315(7106):458]. BMJ. 1996;312(7041):1249-1253. doi:10.1136/bmj.312.7041.1249
- Mente A, O’Donnell MJ, Rangarajan S, et al. Association of urinary sodium and potassium excretion with blood pressure. N Engl J Med. 2014; 371:601-611. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1311989
- American Heart Association. May 23, 2018. How much sodium should I eat per day?. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/how-much-sodium-should-i-eat-per-day.
- Perrin G, Korb-Savoldelli V, Karras A, Danchin N, Durieux P, Sabatier B. Cardiovascular risk associated with high sodium-containing drugs: A systematic review. PLoS One. 2017;12(7):e0180634. Published 2017 Jul 6. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0180634
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevent Heart Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/prevention.html. Accessed September 2020.
- Quader ZS, Zhao L, Gillespie C, et al. Sodium intake among persons aged ≥2 years — United States, 2013–2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;66:324–238. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6612a3
- Irish LA, Kline CE, Gunn HE, Buysse DJ, Hall MH. The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: a review of empirical evidence. Sleep Med Rev. 2015;22:23-36. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2014.10.001