Lack of deep sleep contributes to high blood pressure
August 29th, 2011
04:01 PM ET

Lack of deep sleep contributes to high blood pressure

A lack of deep sleep may be one of the reasons why people develop high blood pressure.  A study of older men published Monday found that those who got the least amount of deep sleep were 80% more likely to develop high blood pressure, compared to those who got longer, less interrupted sleep.

Researchers studied almost 800 men over the age of 65 who didn't have hypertension when the study started. They were given at-home sleep tests that looked at their sleep patterns and measured their non-rapid eye movement sleep, also known as "slow wave sleep," or deep sleep.  Researchers monitored the men's blood pressure changes for a little more than 3 years. Results were published in Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association.

Previous studies have shown that when people get less than 6 hours of sleep per night, it can increase the risk of high blood pressure. If people wake-up frequently, due to sleep apnea, medications, or other health issues and cannot fall back asleep quickly, this can also negatively affect blood pressure.

"Our study shows for the first time that poor quality sleep, reflected by reduced slow wave sleep, puts individuals at significantly increased risk of developing high blood pressure, and that this effect appears to be independent of the influence of breathing pauses during sleep," explains study author Dr. Susan Redline, Professor of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Experts often refer to slow wave sleep as the time when the body is restoring its energy reserves: Blood pressure goes down, breathing slows and the heart rate drops. People usually fall into deep sleep during the early part of the night.

Redline says this new research suggests that if your blood pressure doesn't drop sufficiently while you're sleeping, it may damage your blood vessels. Too little deep sleep may also cause parts of the brain that control the release of a number of hormones and other substances related to maintaining proper blood pressure to work less efficiently.

So how do you know if you're getting too little deep sleep? First of all, listen to your body and your family.

"If you don't sleep properly, are tired during the day, you snore or your wife or husband says you don't breathe [while asleep], get it checked out to see if you have a sleep problem," explains Dr. Donald LaVan, National Spokesman for the American Heart Association.  One way to determine this is by entering a sleep study.

Redline says there are a number of things people can do to increase the likelihood of getting enough deep sleep.  Ask your doctor if any of your medications can interfere with your sleep and if there are any alternative drugs you can take.  Redline also says there's some evidence that being physically and mentally active may help.

High blood pressure has been called the silent killer and puts people at increase risk for heart disease and other illnesses.

When it comes to your blood pressure, "sleep quality is something to pay attention to," explains Redline, "just as one would pay attention to your diet and physical activity levels."

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soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Jason

    My father suffered this exact problem with no sleep and high blood pressure. I make sure to get my 8 hours a day!


    August 29, 2011 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike OMD

      For men..lack of sleep will cause -not may- HBP.

      August 30, 2011 at 17:19 | Report abuse |
  2. Jane

    One of the side effects of my pregnancy was insomnia and by month 7 I had severe preeclamsia (very high blood pressure) so in my experience there is truth to this. I am a perfectly healthy woman who was having no problems with my pregnancy until this.

    August 30, 2011 at 00:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Diana

    "Slow Wave Sleep" is stage 3 sleep – a stage of sleep that most older people do not have, so this study doesn't make sense. Children have stage 3 sleep – the stage where growth hormone is released, whcih is one of the reasons older people just don't have much stage 3 sleep – they are no longer growing. Maybe it is REM sleep they are referring to here – not slow wave sleep? When you don't sleep alot, or have alot of awakenings, older people don't get much REM sleep (or dream stage sleep) which is also a restorative stage of sleep.

    August 30, 2011 at 01:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeff

      There always has to be some sort of "as-matter-of-fact" jack-a out there.

      August 30, 2011 at 08:06 | Report abuse |
    • Correction

      You're probably right, a group of scientists spent 3 years on a sleep study all the while not knowing what the categories of sleep are. Are you listening to yourself?

      August 30, 2011 at 11:01 | Report abuse |
    • Ronnie

      Slow wave sleep contributes to growth hormone in children and contributes to repair and other restorative activities in adults. Deep sleep is essential for your physical well being, just like REM sleep is essential for your mental well being. As people grow older, their REM sleep reduces. Either ways, if you are not getting enough Stage 3 and REM, you are likely to have problems. Good sleep and Good lifestyle are the most essential parts of staying healthy.

      August 30, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
  4. Betty

    Why were only men studied? Although it is helpful to have this study and its results, why are so many medical studies conducted only with men?

    August 30, 2011 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kals

      Most medical studies as well as animal studies are usually conducted in male spcies so as to not have the effects of hormonal cycles. Depending on which stage of a the her cycle a woman is, the results of a study changes and it would be very difficult to make a conclusion of the study since it can not be known if the observed results are due to the experimental conditions or are the result of the hormonal levels.

      August 30, 2011 at 09:57 | Report abuse |
    • MizzD

      Note to Kals –

      1. It was people over 65. The vast majority of women have gone through menopause by this stage.

      2. It was a 3 year study. THis is enough to take hormonal fluctuations that occur within a month into account. If this was done with younger people, then all that the women needed to do was to note the first day of the cycle and this could be taken into consideration with the statistical analysis.

      August 30, 2011 at 18:09 | Report abuse |
  5. Joseph L Cooke

    And, no blood pressure will guarantee a very long sleep.

    August 30, 2011 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. phearis

    "Lack of sleep causes High Blood Pressure" ......... well, No S#&%!!! lol

    August 30, 2011 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. SoundGuy

    I use sounds of nature to fall asleep fast. It works. Check out TranscendentalTones.

    August 30, 2011 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. MizzD

    Have they considered that HBP might cause insomnia?

    August 30, 2011 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rum

      Thanks for the run down. I've recently read the same book, and canont decide when the perfect time to sleep train my DD is. She has two types of nights. She either takes the 7pm power nap and refuses to sleep till 10:30 or 11 and then wakes every three hours or so, or she goes down fighting at 7:30 or 8 and wakes every 45 minutes all night long. We nurse out of desparation every time she wakes up. I am most confused about the night weaning, and to me it sounds a bit worse than the sleep training. Timing the feeds and looking at a clock all while completely sleep deprived??!! I just can't manage to do it.

      October 14, 2012 at 00:10 | Report abuse |
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    August 30, 2011 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. harbharb

    Stress can equal lack of sleep. Stress can help push up one's blood pressure. Just a few more inches along the long crawl toward decrepitude.

    August 30, 2011 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Richard

      LOL Pink Floyd fan? One day closer the DEATH!

      August 30, 2011 at 22:18 | Report abuse |
    • ann

      Because unfortunatly its still a mans world .

      August 30, 2011 at 23:09 | Report abuse |
  11. jf

    In my case, and I'm sure many others, lack of sleep is not a choice, but a necessity driven by life's responsibilities. I would love to sleep 8 hrs a day but do not have the time which is a major cause of stress for some. Stress is known to cause HBP. I wonder if the study considered the causes of lack of sleep. Is it possible the men in the study who slept less did so because they felt more stressed to accomplish more in a day thus reducing their sleep?

    August 31, 2011 at 06:57 | Report abuse | Reply
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  14. JA

    Nice article. Sleep helps in so many ways. Need to make sure we sleep well irrespective of how busy we are.

    Blood pressure needs to be monitored regularly. This is something that cannot be taken lightly. Now, even home based monitors are accurate and comparable to professional ones. I use Omron BP785n and its working great for me.

    September 13, 2014 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Stress can help push up one's blood pressure.

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