Looking to lower your blood pressure? Fix your poor sleep habits first, suggests a new study.
Mayo Clinic researchers recently set out to find how reduced sleep quantity and quality could affect a person's blood pressure. After monitoring their eight participants for 16 days, they found that when their subjects experienced prolonged periods of shorter sleep, they also registered substantially higher blood pressure numbers at night. While the size of the study was small, they presented their findings at the American College of Cardiology's 64th Annual Scientific Session in San Diego, California, on March 15.
The eight healthy, normal-weight participants with ages ranging from 19 to 36 experienced a 4-day acclimation period before being split into two groups: one set who slept only four hours each night for nine days, and the other who slept for nine hours each night for those same nine days. They all also completed three days of recovery. Throughout the 16-day period, the researchers monitored each subjects' blood pressure 24 times throughout a daily cycle.
Blood pressure levels naturally rise and fall in a circular pattern throughout the day. They tend to peak in the middle of the afternoon, and reach their lowest points in the middle of the night during one's deep sleep. Now in this study, the sleep-restricted participants registered an average of 115/64 mm Hg during the nighttime while their well-rested counterparts registered an average of 105/57 mm Hg. In addition to confirming that inadequate sleep limited the anticipated decrease in blood pressure with these figures, the experiment revealed a higher nighttime heart rate in sleep-deprived subjects than those who experienced normal sleep.
"We know high blood pressure, particularly during the night, is one of the major risk factors for heart disease, and Americans typically do not get enough sleep," lead author Naima Covassin, Ph.D., said in a statement.
This new study could also further demonstrate why sleep apnea is considered a common contributor to high blood pressure. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this often-undiagnosed sleeping disorder creates pauses in a person's breathing that lead to snoring and restless nights. That resulting decrease in sleep quantity and quality can lead to hypertension and heart disease, as well as possible mood and memory problems.