Posted on Oct 03, 2023, 9 p.m.
Women who are struggling to get enough sleep may want to get their blood pressure checked, this study published in the journal Hypertension from Brigham and Women’s Hospital highlights how important sleep is to staying healthy and keeping blood pressure in check.
It can be difficult to put your brain to rest and get some sleep in this fast-paced modern age where it seems as if everything is designed to attract your attention or stress you out. However, this study reveals how important it is to overcome those distractions, revealing that women who struggle with getting enough sleep are at a greater risk of developing hypertension.
"These findings suggest that individuals who struggle with symptoms of insomnia may be at risk of hypertension and could benefit from preemptive screening," explained Shahab Haghayegh, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Brigham and Harvard Medical School. "Hypertension is associated with many other physical and mental health complications. The sooner we can identify individuals with high blood pressure and treat them for it, the better we can mitigate future health issues."
Sleep disorders and hypertension are both becoming increasingly prevalent among American adults, according to the CDC more than 35% of U.S. adults do not get enough sleep. To add to these sleepless statistics, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests that over 30% of Americans experience symptoms of insomnia, and 45% of U.S. adults are living with high blood pressure.
For this study, 66,122 participants of the Nurses’ Health Study II between the ages of 25-42 years without hypertension were followed for over 16 years. Information was collected on lifestyle, BMI, sleep hygiene, activity levels, family history of hypertension, and various other factors. The incidence of hypertension was assessed every two years, and sleep duration measurements were conducted at the study onset as well as 8 years later recording the average number of hours slept over a 24-hour period. Sleep difficulties were also tracked such as trouble falling/staying asleep or waking early, which was collected at several points throughout the study.
Analysis revealed that women with sleeping difficulties on average had higher BMIs, lower physical activity levels, and poorer diets. Those struggling with sleep were also more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and previously gone through menopause.
Over the follow-up, 25,987 cases of hypertension were documented, of those women who slept less than 7-8 hours a night had a significantly higher risk of developing hypertension. Women who had trouble falling to sleep and staying asleep were also similarly more likely to develop hypertension. However, waking up early was not associated with the increased risk. These associations remained significant after controlling for chronotype and participant shift work schedules.
While this study is not able to establish causality it does establish strong associations. Sleep difficulties can lead to a chain of events that can potentially lead to hypertension. Disruptions in the sleep-wake cycle can influence blood vessel constriction/relaxation activity as well as the function of cells that regulate vascular tone, and treating one condition may also help to treat the other.
"I hope these findings further underscore the crucial role of quality sleep in our overall well-being. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends sleeping seven or more hours a night, and if you cannot fall or stay asleep, it might be worth exploring why that is," said Haghayegh. "This study highlights yet another reason why getting a good night's sleep is so important."
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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