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Less Sleep Could Mean Higher Blood Pressure

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Less Sleep Could Mean Higher Blood Pressure

Less Sleep Could Mean Higher Blood Pressure

May 19, 2006

By: Laurie Edwards for Veins1

A good night’s rest does many things. It makes us less irritable, it improves our concentration and focus and it increases our energy. But according to new research, getting a solid night’s sleep may also help our bodies in a different way – by controlling our blood pressure.

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Should I seek treatment?

A blood pressure reading of 120/80 or below is considered normal. Very low blood pressure readings can be symptomatic of potentially serious medical problems and should be investigated.

Experts classify readings of 120/80 to 140/90 as either normal or pre-hypertension.

Patients whose readings are above 140/90 are considered to have hypertension, and both numbers are important in this reading.

Blood pressure is the measure of the force of our blood pushing against the walls of our arteries.

Hypertension can be treated and controlled with medication and lifestyle accommodations, so monitor your readings and consult with your physician.


The American Heart Association estimates that nearly one in three American adults has high blood pressure – and many don’t even realize it. Untreated hypertension can lead to cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke, as well as kidney and vision problems.

A new study published in a recent issue of Hypertension found that middle-aged people are more likely to experience elevated blood pressure if they don’t get at least six hours of sleep during the night.

During waking hours, blood pressure usually remains stable, but it can be temporarily elevated by physical activity or feelings of excitement or anxiety. Blood pressure is lowest during the night when we’re asleep, so not getting enough rest may cheat the body on a much needed blood pressure break. Over time, this could make hypertension more likely.

“Sleep allows the heart to slow down and blood pressure to drop for a significant part of the day. However, people who sleep for only short durations raise their average 24 hour blood pressure and heart rate. This may set up the cardiovascular system to operate at an elevated pressure,” said Dr. James E. Gangwisch, lead study author and post-doctoral fellow in the psychiatric epidemiology training program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

In the study, Gangwisch and colleagues found that 24 percent of patients between the ages of 32 and 59 who slept five or fewer hours per night developed hypertension, compared to the 12 percent of participants with hypertension who slept seven to eight hours a night.

The results held fast even after controlling factors like physical activity, obesity, diabetes, sodium and alcohol intake, smoking, depression, age, gender and ethnicity were taken into account.

In addition to elevated blood pressure, researchers found that those patients who didn’t get enough sleep were also less likely to get regular exercise and were also more likely to have a high body mass index (BMI). They also reported higher incidences of diabetes and depression as well as bouts of daytime sleepiness.

“We had hypothesized that both BMI and a history of diabetes would mediate the relationship between sleep and blood pressure, and the results were consistent with this,” said Dr. Gangwisch.

Interestingly, the increased risk of hypertension with lack of sleep did not apply to patients over the age of 60. Experts point to several reasons that might explain this; namely, the fact that older age is already associated with trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.

This difference could also be attributed to the fact that people suffering from a combination of hypertension, diabetes and obesity would be less likely to live longer.

Since this study was observational, Gangwisch and colleagues agreed that more research is needed to confirm the exact nature of the association between sleep patterns and hypertension.

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