How Insomnia Can Increase the Risk of High Blood Pressure

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Sleep deprivation blood pressureSleep is important. It will leave you feeling refreshed the next morning, improve your productivity and concentration, as well as assist in repairing your heart and blood vessels. But are you aware that people who suffer from insomnia and sleep deprivation have a higher risk of developing hypertension?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulties falling or remaining asleep. People who suffer from insomnia likely have trouble waking up in the mornings and they may feel extremely exhausted upon waking up.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common condition where blood travels through the arteries at a higher than normal force. If your blood pressure increases and stays high over a period of time, it’s considered high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to a number of adverse health conditions, such as aneurysms,vision changes, stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and even heart failure.


The Study: Insomniacs Face Increased Risk of Hypertension

According to a report published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, insomniacs who take longer than 14 minutes to fall asleep face a higher risk of hypertension.

The study was done at West China Hospital and is the first to test the link between hypertension and difficulty sleeping.

For the study, researchers analyzed 219 chronic insomniacs and 96 people with normal sleeping patterns. The average age of participantswas 40-years-old and more than 60% of participants were women. Chronic insomnia was defined as difficulty sleeping for more than six months.

Participants were monitored for one night in a sleep lab and took the Multiple Latency Sleep Test (MLST) the next day. Participants were monitored in four 20-minute nap periods at two-hour intervals: 9:00 AM, 11:00 AM , 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM. Half of the participants spent 14 minutes or less falling asleep compared to the other half who took more than 14 minutes. Those who took longer than 14 minutes were considered “hypearoused.”

For the study, researchers based hypertension on blood pressure measures or a physician’s diagnosis. They controlled factors such as diabetes, sleep apnea, alcohol, smoking, obesity and caffeine use.

The results showed that chronic insomnia combined with a MLST score higher than 14 minutes increased the risk of high blood pressure by 300%. An MLST score of over 17 minutes increased the risk of hypertension by 400%.

More Studies Confirm Link Between Sleep deprivation and Hypertension

Two studies that have been published in the journal Sleep Medicine demonstrate the association betweensleep and hypertension.

For the first analysis, researchers reviewed 21 studies that involved 225,000 participants. The analysis revealed that short sleepers—those who sleep less than six hours a night—are 20% more likely to develop hypertension.

For the second study, 270 patients admitted to a hypertension clinic were studied. Those with resistant hypertension were defined as having a blood pressure over 140/90 while taking three medications or controlled with four or more medications. Researchers found that the inability to fall asleep or more time lying in bed without sleep was prevalent, specifically in women suffering from resistant hypertension.

Experts believe that the reason for these sleep disorders is the activation of the body’s stress systems. People with sleeping disorders—such as insomnia and sleep apnea—who sleep less than six hours a night activate two stress systems: thehypothalamic pituitary-adrenal systemand the sympathomedullary pathway. When both systems are activated, adrenaline and cortisol are released. If they continue to release throughout the night, it can lead to difficulties treating hypertension.

Improve Sleep Quality to Reduce the Risk of Hypertension

  • Breathing exercises: Before bed, close your eyes and take a deep breath from the abdomen area, not the chest. Breathe slowly and deeply so your lungs begin to fill up. As you slow down your breathing, you will feel your body becoming relaxed.
  • Wear socks: Because feet have poor blood circulation, when they get cold in the middle of the night, it can cause a person to wake up and disrupt their sleep.
  • Put together a bedtime routine: It’s essential to create a bedtime routine that helps you unwind. Whether it’s taking a warm bath, drinking non-caffeinated tea, dimming the lights in your bedroom or listening to relaxing music, it’s important to relieve the day’s tension.
  • Try not to oversleep: Never sleep late because you’re trying to make up for a poor night’s sleep. Try to get up around the same time each day. Waking up at different times even for a couple of days will reset your body clock to a different cycle, where you’ll be sleepy later and wake up later as well.
  • Go to sleep at the same time: Maintaining a scheduled bedtime will help lower your stress levels as well as manage your body’s internal clock andcircadian rhythms.
  • Have a comfortable room temperature: If you’re too cold or too warm, you may become uncomfortable and find it difficult to sleep.
  • Exercise: Staying active and exercising on a daily basis will result in higher levels of melatonin, which will help induce deep sleep.
  • Sleep with the lights off: If you wake up in the middle of the night to use the washroom, keep the lights off if possible. The moment the lights are turned on, the body ceases production of melatonin, which is responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle.

Be aware of your sleep patterns and the effect it has on your blood pressure. If you follow these helpful tips to improve your sleep quality, you won’t be putting your blood pressure in jeopardy.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“Chronic insomniacs may face increased risk of hypertension,” American Heart Association web site, June 26, 2015;
Rosenberg, R., “Sleep and High Blood Pressure,” Everyday Health web site; December 10, 2013;
“High Blood Pressure (hypertension),” Mayo Clinic web site, July 7, 2015;
“12 Better Sleep Tips to Help Improve Your Blood Pressure,” Resperate web site; May 20, 2013,

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Dr. Richard Foxx, MD

About the Author, Browse Richard's Articles

Richard M. Foxx, MD has decades of medical experience with a comprehensive background in endocrinology, aesthetic and laser medicine, gynecology, and sports medicine. He has extensive experience with professional athletes, including several Olympic competitors. Dr. Foxx practices aesthetic and laser medicine, integrative medicine, and anti-aging medicine. He is the founder and Medical Director of the Medical and Skin Spa located in Indian Wells, California, at the Hyatt Regency Resort. Dr. Foxx is certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners... Read Full Bio »