Why sharing a bed is good for your heart.

sharing a bed

picture source: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh in the U.S. believe sleeping next to someone helps lower the stress hormone cortisol, perhaps because it encourages feelings of safety and security.

Prolonged periods of elevated cortisol have been linked with an increase in cytokines — proteins involved in inflammation that can trigger heart disease, depression and auto-immune disorders.

Sleeping together has a protective effect by lowering the levels of these proteins.

Sleep is a critically important health behaviour that we know is associated with heart disease and psychiatric wellbeing,’ says lead researcher Wendy Troxel, assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology at the university.

‘There is extensive literature showing that married people — happily married people, in particular — live longer, happier, and healthier lives than their unmarried or unhappily married counterparts.

‘We also know sleep is critically important for health and wellbeing, and it happens to be a behaviour couples engage in together, so it stands to reason it may be an important link with their health.’

Sharing a bed is also thought to boost levels of the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin, known to induce bonding feelings.

Recent studies have shown oxytocin’s vital role in health. Scientists at Malmo University Hospital in Sweden found it can affect digestion.

Those with lower levels had poorer gastric motility — the process by which food is moved from the stomach to the intestines, therefore slowing down digestion.

Levels of the hormone have been found to be lower in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, says Dr Hamilton.

‘Oxytocin has also been shown to reduce inflammation. While inflammation is a necessary part of the healing process, too much of it, which can accompany bacterial infections or chronic stress, is damaging to the body.

‘It’s well known, for example, that inflammation plays a role in many types of cancer.

‘Meanwhile, a number of recent studies have shown how oxytocin can affect the heart.’

For example, a study from the University of North Carolina asked 59 women who were married or had partners to keep a diary of the number of hugs they received over a set time.

The scientists then analysed levels of oxytocin in the blood. The women who’d received the most hugs had the highest levels of oxytocin — and the lowest blood pressure and heart rates.

‘Indeed, oxytocin is like a natural angina medication,’ says Dr Hamilton.

‘Angina medication is basically nitric oxide, which expand blood vessels. Oxytocin helps the body produce nitric oxide itself.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

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