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Sleep Your Way to Healthy Blood Pressure

Originally published on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012
Blood Pressure, HEART HEALTH by

87663058If you suffer from blood pressure problems, you may want to think about getting a little more sleep on a regular basis.Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that even one extra hour of sleep may have a significant positive impact on your blood pressure.

The Basics of Healthy Blood Pressure

About one third of adults in the United States suffer from high blood pressure.Blood pressure problems, including high blood pressure, often have no symptoms and many people go undiagnosed for years.  This is cause for concern because high blood pressure can lead to heart, blood vessel and kidney damage as well as other health problems. It is important to have your blood pressure monitored regularly to make sure that you aren’t suffering from silent blood pressure problems.

Healthy Blood Pressure Changes

Blood pressure changes throughout the day; it is lower when you sleep and increases when you’re active.Blood pressure involves two different measures – systolic (top number) which is your blood pressure when your heart is pumping blood and diastolic (bottom number) which is your blood pressure when your heart is at rest in between beats.Optimal blood pressure is 120/80mmHg or lower.  Pre-hypertension is 120-139/80-89mmHg. Pre-hypertension means that your blood pressure is not optimal and you may be at risk for developing blood pressure problems in the future if you don’t take steps to prevent it.  Stage 1 hypertension is 140-159/90-99mmHg and Stage 2 hypertension is 160 or above/100 or above

The Study on Healthy Blood Pressure

Researchers from Harvard Medical School studied 22 men and women who either had pre-hypertension or stage 1 hypertension and who also regularly slept 7 hours or less for a period of six weeks. The participants were either assigned to a sleep extension group (aiming to increase their sleep by 1 hour each day) or a sleep maintenance group (aiming to go to bed at the same time every day). Blood pressure measurements as well as blood and urine samples were taken at the start and end of the study.

Participants that were in the sleep extension group managed to increase their daily sleep by 35 minutes, on average; while those in the sleep maintenance group increased their daily sleep time by 4 minutes, on average. The systolic and diastolic pressures of the participants in the sleep extension group decreased significantly (on average by 14mmHg and 8mmHg).  The individuals in the sleep maintenance group also saw a reduction in their systolic (7mmHg average) and diastolic (3mmHg average) pressures, although their decreases were not significant.  The researchers concluded that an extra hour of sleep can have a significant effect on blood pressure for individuals suffering from pre-hypertension or stage 1 hypertension.

RELATED READING: How Your Eye Health Impacts Your Blood Pressure

It’s important to keep in mind that while this was an extremely small study, with only 22 participants, it does provide insight into a possible new treatment approach for individuals with blood pressure problems. Increasing the amount of sleep may compliment other lifestyle changes (diet and exercise changes) that are often recommended to these individuals.  Future research should include larger studies that look at whether sleep is a possible additional treatment option for individuals that have blood pressure problems.

Preventing Blood Pressure Problems

If you’re looking to steer clear of blood pressure problems, now and in the future, in addition to making changes to your sleep pattern as this recent study suggest you should do, Harvard Men’s Health Watch recommends that you also do the following:

-          Maintain a healthy weight

-          Eat a healthy, balanced diet

-          Reduce your sodium intake

-          Don’t smoke

-          Monitor your blood pressure at home

-          Drink alcohol in moderation

-          Take the right blood pressure medication, in the right dose





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