You already know that getting a good night’s sleep can affect everything from your mood to your energy levels, but researchers have found that sleep can actually have a significant impact on your cardiovascular health. We’ve reviewed the research into sleep and blood pressure and compiled our findings here.
What Is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force that’s primarily produced against the walls of the arteries when the heart contracts, pumping blood throughout the body via the circulatory system. The blood pressure measurement consists of two numeric values: systolic blood pressure, which occurs when the heart contracts, and diastolic blood pressure, which is the pressure exerted on the blood vessels during the relaxation phase of a heartbeat. Blood pressure readings always include these two numbers, measured in units of millimeters of mercury, or mmHg. Readings can be taken using a sphygmomanometer, a digital monitor equipped with an arm, wrist or finger cuff.
In adults, a blood pressure reading of 120/80 or lower is considered to be normal.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, or HBP, is also known as hypertension.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, hypertension impacts about 45% of American adults. In 2018, HBP was either a primary or contributing cause in close to half a million deaths in the country.
High blood pressure tends to develop over time, and that’s why many people living with hypertension are unaware of their condition. Hypertension risk factors include:
- Genetics/family history of high blood pressure
- Consuming a diet that’s high in sodium and low in potassium
- Maintaining a sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Smoking, chewing or vaping tobacco
- Chronic stress
- Advanced age
- Elevated low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol levels
Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to a host of health issues, such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Strokes and heart attacks
- Chest pain, also known as angina
- Kidney disease
- Vision loss
- Sexual dysfunction
- Pain and fatigue
- Chronic headaches
When combined with a large waist circumference, high blood glucose levels, high levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol, hypertension can cause a common condition known as metabolic or insulin resistance syndrome.
How Sleep Impacts Blood Pressure
High-quality sleep is essential to good health, and that’s especially true when it comes to achieving and maintaining healthy blood pressure readings.
A 24-hour hypertension study published in the American Journal of Hypertension discovered a strong link between sleep deprivation and high blood pressure. The study included 36 subjects consisting of 20 men and 16 women. Researchers measured participants’ blood pressure readings, both on days when the subjects had a full night’s sleep consisting of 8 hours of undisturbed rest between 11 pm and 7 am and on sleep-deprived days when participants were only permitted to sleep undisturbed between 3 am and 7 am.
The study authors found that average blood pressure readings and heart rates were notably higher for all participants on sleep-deprivation days. Researchers also revealed that blood pressure and heart rate readings rose significantly in the morning immediately following a sleep-insufficient night, a finding that could explain why heart attacks and strokes are most common in the early morning hours.
Cardiovascular events are also more likely to occur on Mondays than any other day. Many people tend to stay up late on the weekend, which disrupts the body’s sleep schedule and often leads to sleep deprivation on Sunday nights.
The same sleep deprivation occurs in regions that use daylight savings time, which involves losing an hour of sleep once a year when the clocks are moved forward. One study conducted in Michigan found that daily cases of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) rose by 24% on the Monday following spring time change. At the same time, heart attack rates fell by 21% on the Tuesday following fall time change when an hour is added.
Given the known relationship between cardiovascular health, blood pressure and sleep, it’s clear that the connection between sleep and blood pressure can have a major impact on your overall health and wellness.
Tips to Safeguard Your Health
While it’s important to always consult with a licensed medical professional when seeking medical advice, there are a number of simple strategies you can follow to help keep your blood pressure in check, including ones that involve sleep.
- Have your blood pressure reviewed on a regular basis
- Stick to a regular sleep routine, even on the weekends
- Eat a healthy, low-sodium diet
- Refrain from using tobacco products
- If you choose to consume alcohol, do so in moderation
- Plan ahead for daylight savings time by slowly adjusting your sleep schedule the week before the time change
- Seek treatment for conditions that can negatively impact your sleep, such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome
Getting a good night’s rest is one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellness, and it also may be one way to help improve your blood pressure readings.