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Middle Aged People That Sleep Less Have Higher Blood Pressure - Lack of Sleep Linked to Increased Risk of Hypertension

April 3rd 2006

Middle Aged People That Sleep Little Have Higher Blood Pressure - Lack of Sleep Linked to Increased Risk of Hypertension

Sleep is Important

Researchers believe that lack of sleep increases the risk for developing high blood pressure. Study participants who slept five or fewer hours per night per night were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) after taking into account other risk factors including obesity, diabetes, physical activity, salt and alcohol consumption, smoking, depression, age, education, gender, and ethnicity.

Sleep is important because it allows the heart to slow down, thus lowering the blood pressure.  James E. Gangwisch, PhD said “However, people who sleep for only short durations raise their average 24-hour blood pressure and heart rate. This may set up the cardiovascular system to operate at an elevated pressure."  Gangwisch, is lead author of the study and post-doctoral fellow in the psychiatric epidemiology training (PET) program at the Mailman School.


The researchers looked at the data from the Epidemiologic Follow-up Studies of the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES I), and found that 24 percent of people ages 32 to 59 who slept for five or fewer hours a night developed hypertension versus 12 percent of those who got seven or eight hours of sleep. 

The NHANES I study included 4,810 people ages 32 to 86 who did not have high blood pressure at baseline. 

NHANES I was conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control (NCHS/CDC).  It was designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States through interviews and direct physical examinations.  There have been other similar studies, including the NHANES II and III that were carried out during the years 1976-1980 and 1988-1994, respectively.

The 1982-84 follow-up survey asked participants how many hours they slept at night. During eight to 10 years of follow-up, 647 of the 4,810 participants were diagnosed with hypertension. Compared to people who slept seven or eight hours a night, people who slept five or fewer hours a night also exercised less and were more likely to have a higher body mass index. (BMI is a measurement used to assess body fatness). They were also more likely to have diabetes and depression, and to report daytime sleepiness.


Interestingly, the short sleep duration was linked to a new diagnosis of high blood pressure among middle-aged participants, and not people age 60 or older.  This may be because as we advance in age we have difficulties falling and staying asleep anyway.  Another reason could be that subjects suffering from hypertension, diabetes, and obesity would be less likely to survive into their later years.

Sleep deprivation has also been associated with an increased appetite and compromise insulin sensitivity.  Sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder, has been associated with morning high blood pressure as well.  Some apnea patients use a Constant Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine to insure uninterrupted breathing at night.

The researchers found that high blood pressure often goes undetected.  An analysis of NHANES III data showed that over 30 percent of people who had high blood pressure didn't know they had it. "We need to investigate the biological mechanisms and, if confirmed, design interventions that will help people modify sleep behavior," Dr. Gangwisch said.  He added, "A good night's sleep is very important for good health."

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By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication

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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                   Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:50 PM