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Dreaming of a healthy heart? Why sleep matters

February is heart health month and there are currently more than 26 million people affected by heart failure.

While you can’t really control risk factors like age and genetics, you can control how much you sleep. A new study indicates that the way we sleep may actually be the key to unlocking a healthy heart.

Are your sleep habits healthy? Well, it turns out sleep can mean a whole lot more than just a chance to re-charge.

“You have a risk of heart disease, cancers and stroke because sleep is like a medicine. That’s your time when you rejuvenate,” Jagdish Khubchadani, a professor of public health at New Mexico State University, said. “You grow again. You feel relaxed, fulfilled.”

Healthy sleep patterns are defined as seven to eight hours of sleep every night, no frequent waking or insomnia, and no reported daytime sleepiness. In a study published in the journal Circulation, researchers found that adults with the healthiest sleep habits were 42% less likely to develop heart disease.

“We are running around finding the best medicine for stress and a number of problems like heart disease. But sleep is the best medicine available for free and maintaining it should be a number one priority,” said Khubchadani.

For higher-quality sleep, experts recommend going to bed at the same time every night, exercising throughout the day, and keeping your mind engaged. Start your bedtime routine an hour before bed and yep you guessed it … keep your phone out of the bedroom.

Something else to watch out for: Researchers at Mayo Clinic say that snoring could be a sign of sleep deprivation. Not getting enough sleep can lead to further throat relaxation which is one of the causes of snoring.