A good night’s sleep is essential for good health, and a new study now shows how it can specifically affect blood pressure. This research lead by the University of Arizona has offered a possible explanation of the connection between sleep and blood pressure that has not been linked before.
Although the link between poor sleep and cardiovascular health has been well researched in scientific literature, the reason for the connection is less understood. This new study to be published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine offers one possible explanation as to why sleep issues have been shown to increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and death from cardiovascular disease.
Lead study author, Caroline Doyle, a graduate student in the UA Department of Psychology, spoke about the study. “Blood pressure is one of the best predictors of cardiovascular health. There is a lot of literature out there that shows sleep has some kind of impact on mortality and on cardiovascular disease, which is the No. 1 killer of people in the country. We wanted to see if we could try to get a piece of that story—how sleep might be impacting disease through blood pressure.”
For the study, Doyle and her team gathered a group of 300 participants, including men and women, aged 21 to 70 with no history of heart problems. They were required to wear portable blood pressure cuffs for two consecutive days. The cuffs randomly took blood pressure readings during 45-minute intervals throughout each day.
Overnight, participants wore wristwatch-like actigraphy monitors that measure movement to help determine the quality of sleep. This also monitored the amount of time spent in bed.
Overall, the study showed that those who had lower sleep quality showed an increase in blood pressure during their restless night. They also showed higher systolic blood pressure the next day.
Quality of Sleep
It was reported that not only did a good night’s sleep reinforce a healthier blood pressure reading, but also the amount of time spent in bed and the quality of sleep. This research is meant to help show the connection between sleep and blood pressure and also to bring awareness to the importance of sleep quality.
Doyle and her team suggest cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI) for those suffering from chronic sleep troubles. CBTI helps patients focus on making behavioral changes to improve sleep health. This form of therapy is gaining attention in the medical field and is recommended by both the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American College of Physicians as the first line of treatment for insomnia.
Improving sleep quality can start with making simple changes and being proactive, co-author John Ruiz said. “Keep the phone in a different room,” he suggested. “If your bedroom window faces the east, pull the shades. For anything that’s going to cause you to waken, think ahead about what you can do to mitigate those effects.”
Doyle and Ruiz hope their team’s findings, showing the impact that a restful night’s sleep can have on the body, will help illuminate just how critical sleep is for heart health.
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