How You Sleep Could Affect Your Blood Pressure

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Sleep is a critical aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Good sleep, that is. It is the subject of continuing health breakthroughs that show just how much your body needs those hours asleep to rebuild and prepare for the day ahead. A new study has shown that poor sleep is a very strong predictor for high blood pressure.

Specifically, the poor sleep here is called reduced “slow wave sleep” (SWS). SWS, one of the deeper stages of sleep, is characterized by non-rapid eye movement during sleep from which it’s difficult to awaken. It is measured by slow, synchronized brain waves called “delta activity” on an electroencephalogram. Sleep researchers found that people with the lowest level of SWS had an 80% increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

For the first time, it is shown that poor quality sleep puts people at a significantly increased risk of hypertension.

Men who spent less than four percent of their sleep time in SWS were significantly more likely to develop high blood pressure during the 3.4 years of the study. Men with reduced SWS had generally poorer sleep quality as measured by shorter sleep duration and more awakenings at night. They also had more severe sleep apnea than men with higher levels of SWS. Of all measures of sleep quality, not getting enough SWS was the most strongly associated with high blood pressure.

The study included 784 men who didn’t have hypertension. They were on average 75 years old. They were studied in their own homes and researchers assessed a wide range of measurements of sleep disturbances, such as frequency of breathing disturbances, time in each sleep state, number of nighttime awakenings, and sleep duration.

Generally, older adults are more likely to develop high blood pressure than younger people. Sleep disorders and poor quality sleep are more common in older adults than in younger ones. Obesity is also associated with hypertension. They found that men were more likely to have less SWS than women. Plus, men were at more of an increased risk of high blood pressure. Is it possible that poorer sleep is to blame for men generally faring worse in blood pressure?

Slow wave sleep has been implicated in learning and memory. It is also linked to a ton of functions in the body, including the metabolic rate and nervous system. Both of these contribute to high blood pressure.

Good quality sleep is quite simply the third pillar of health. Along with diet and physical activity, sleep is essential to your good health. Treating it as such is an important consideration for us all.