September 1, 2011

Snoozing Your Way to Hypertension

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Sleep issues heighten high blood pressure risks

(dailyRx News) Getting poor quality sleep may have more impact than yawning and sleepiness at work the next day. It could also increase the risk of developing high blood pressure in older men.

Older men with low levels of slow wave sleep, characterized by a deeper sleep stage with non-rapid eye movements that is difficult to awaken from, have an 80 percent increased risk for developing hypertension.

"Get plenty of rest each night."

Dr. Susan Redline, the study’s co-author and Peter C. Farrell Professor of Sleep Medicine in the department of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School, noted that the study shows for the first time that poor sleep quality heightens the risk of developing high blood pressure.

Dr. Redline the effect appears to be independent of the influence of breathing pauses from sleep apnea during sleep.

Researchers conducted comprehensive evaluations of sleep characteristics by measuring brain wave activity that distinguished REM from non-REM sleep in 784 men who did not have hypertension. They also checked for sleep apnea through measuring sleep disturbances and oxygen levels while the men slept in their own homes.

Investigators compiled measurements including frequency of breathing disturbances, time in each sleep state, number of nighttime awakenings and sleep duration. The average participant age was 75, and most were white.

It was found that men who spent less than 4 percent of their sleep time in reduced slow wave sleep were significantly more likely to develop hypertension.

A previous study had suggested that men were more likely to have less slow rate sleep than women. Men also are at an increased risk of high blood pressure as compared to women, suggesting that poor quality sleep may explain why men tend to have a predisposition to high blood pressure.

Slow wave sleep, which has been implicated in learning and memory, affects the sympathetic nervouis system, which could contribute to high blood pressure.

“Although women were not included in this study, it’s quite likely that those who have lower levels of slow wave sleep for any number of reasons may also have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure,” Redline said.

The research was published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
August 29, 2011

Last Updated:
September 1, 2011