Red heart pinned to a natural string

A recent study found that sleep helps keep your heart healthy, and that women are more susceptible than men to the negative effects of a lack of sleep. Sounds worrisome, but the good news is that antioxidant responses and oxidative stress are involved and both can be supported with diet and routine. Here’s how…


The Surprising Link Between Sleep and Your Heart

In this article you’ll find more on:

  • The type of sleeping pattern that the science shows can increase your cardiovascular risk (Are you mildly sleep deprived?)
  • How sleep affects antioxidant responses, oxidative stress and your heart (The science-y bit) 
  • 3 ideas on how to improve your bedtime routine AND a recipe for my Blueberry Green Smoothie, the ONE drink you can have 3 times a week to easily get more antioxidants into your diet. (The practical bit)
Nutrition with Nina - Blog - Sleep and heart health

Are You Mildly Sleep Deprived?

A good night’s sleep is often seen as a luxury, especially for women with busy lives and irregular sleep patterns. However, a recent sleep study has shed light on the critical importance of quality sleep.

The science reveals how sleep, or the lack of it, can negatively impact the health of your heart.

What type of sleeping pattern was under investigation? Let’s look at this now.

Actually, first 2 questions:

  • What time did you go to bed last night?
  • What about the night before?

The reason I ask is because you might be one of a surprisingly large group of women who are mildly, but chronically sleep deprived.

You get to bed at 11pm one night. Then at 12.30am the next.

And if you’re mostly waking at the same time each morning, you could be getting anything from 5½ – 6½ hours sleep on a ‘bad’ night and 7 – 8 hours sleep when things are ‘good’.

With a random pattern of late bedtimes, what this really means is that for a few days of the week you’re underslept. And this happens week in, week out.

In this study, researchers were interested in investigating ‘mild, prolonged sleep restriction’ and asked participants to delay their bedtime by 1½ hours each night, for 6 weeks.

Can you see how this imitates what happens in real-life?

So, now you might ask, what’s the problem with having mildly restricted sleep for weeks on end?

Let’s head to the study and find out.

Uncovering The Link Between Sleep and Heart Health (The Science-y Bit)

Sleep studies which mimic what happens in real-life can reveal loads of useful information, and this study – which only included women in the study group – did exactly that.

Here are 3 key findings that were revealed:

Key point 1: Oxidative stress and sleep

A key point highlighted from this study is the relationship between oxidative stress and sleep.

Getting insufficient sleep increases oxidative stress, which in turn contributes to endothelial inflammation and dysfunction, early steps in cardiovascular disease development. 

Key point 2: Antioxidant responses and DCUN1D3

A new finding identified a specific protein – the exotically named Defective in Cullin Neddylation-1 Domain Containing 3 (DCUN1D3) – as a key player in healthy antioxidant responses and sleep.

DCUN1D3 helps activate the body’s antioxidant defense mechanisms, but when sleep is restricted less is produced. This hinders the body’s ability to counteract oxidative stress.

Key point 3: Sleep restriction and cardiovascular risk

Overall, this study reveals that sleep restriction is associated with an increased cardiovascular risk. Interestingly, this risk has been shown to be more pronounced in women than in men.

Cardiovascular disease is a significant health concern, especially as we age, and this finding underscores the importance of addressing our sleep patterns to protect our heart health.

2 Steps to Improve Your Sleep and Protect Your Heart

The results of this 2023 study are big news. Not only does it show a link between sleeping patterns and heart health, it also highlights two distinct physiological processes that are involved – antioxidant defence responses and oxidative stress.

Luckily, these are all changeable and can be improved.

  • Some of the tastiest foods are full of antioxidants to boost your defences and combat oxidative stress.
  • It’s never too late to create a bedtime routine and prioritise sleep, even when you’ve reached midlife.

Here are 2 actionable steps that you can start taking today to protect your heart and prioritise your sleep.

Step 1:
Use your DIET to beat oxidative stress and increase antioxidants

Looking to combat oxidative stress and boost your intake of antioxidant foods but don’t have time for a total diet overhaul?

Try this ONE breakfast smoothie, just 3 or 4 times a week, as I’ve crammed it full of antioxidant-rich foods so you get vitamin C, vitamin E and more. 

Using ingredients from your store-cupboard, fridge and freezer, this Blueberry Green Smoothie is quick to make and is an easy way to get more antioxidants into your diet.

Blueberry Green Smoothie bursting with antioxidants

Blueberry Green Smoothie


    • ¾ cup milk or unsweetened nut or seed mylk
    • 1 handful frozen blueberries (wild/organic where possible)
    • 1 handful baby spinach (or kale or lettuce or bok choi)
    • 1 tbsp smooth almond butter
    • 2 tbsp protein powder
    • 1 tbsp hemp hearts
    • ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
    • ¼ tsp vanilla extract


    • Put the liquid in your blender first. Then add all remaining ingredients. 
    • Mix until smooth. Pour. Enjoy!

Step 2:
Build a BEDTIME ROUTINE to help prioritise sleep for heart health

Having enough sleep each night allows your body time to repair and regenerate and the closer you get to having 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night, the better. 

If you’re finding it hard to build a regular bedtime routine, here are three recommendations to help:

  • Set a Bedtime Alarm: Just as you set an alarm to wake up, set one for bedtime. This will serve as a reminder to start winding down and preparing for sleep.
  • Create a Relaxing Pre-Bed Routine: Engage in calming activities before bed, such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing deep breathing exercises. Avoid stimulating activities like watching thrilling TV shows or engaging in work-related tasks.
  • Gradually Adjust Your Schedule: If you’re used to irregular sleep patterns, gradually shift your bedtime earlier by 15 minutes each night until you reach your desired bedtime. This gradual adjustment can make it easier to stick to a consistent schedule.
Woman relaxing on a blue sofa reading a book nd unwinding before bed

The Takeaway

Today we explored a study which provided crucial insights into the relationship between sleep patterns and cardiovascular health. Reduced sleep affects antioxidant processes and increases oxidative stress, which over the long-term has a negative effect on the heart.

But these findings can be translated into practical actions to take now that could help in the future to reduce cardiovascular risk – like prioritising sleep and making a habit of eating antioxidant-rich foods.

I shared some ideas on how to build a more consistent sleep routine. I also recommended drinking a Blueberry Green Smoothie, 3 or 4 times a week. It’s an easy solution to what to eat to get more antioxidants into your diet.

Implement these changes today for a healthier, more restful tomorrow. Your heart and overall health will thank you!

Image credits: Debby Hudson, Khadeeja Yasser and Alex Shu at Unsplash