Insufficient Sleep Tied to Elevated Blood Pressure Risk, New Research

Insufficient Sleep Tied to Elevated Blood Pressure Risk, New Research
01.04.2024
  • Researchers are reporting that the fewer hours a person sleeps, the higher their risk of high blood pressure.
  • Evidence linking less sleep to hypertension isn’t new, but conclusions have been inconsistent in the past.
  • The risk of high blood pressure is greater in women who sleep less.

Sleeping fewer than 7 hours a night is associated with a higher risk of high blood pressureTrusted Source over time, according to a new study.

The findings, which haven’t been published yet in a peer-reviewed journal, are being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session.

The study authors acknowledged the association between sleep patterns and high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, isn’t necessarily a revelation.

However, they said evidence of the connection has been inconsistent in the past.

Details from the study on sleep and high blood pressure

The researchers looked at data from 16 studies done between January 2000 and May 2023.

The information involved incidences of hypertension in 1,044,035 people in six countries who didn’t have a history of high blood pressure over follow-up periods ranging from 2 to 18 years (with a median of 5 years).

The researchers reported that those sleeping for shorter periods had a significantly higher risk of developing hypertension, even after adjusting for demographic and cardiovascular risk factors that included smoking, blood pressure, body mass, education, gender, and age.

The association was even stronger for people getting fewer than five hours of sleep.

“Based on the most updated data, the less you sleep — that is less than seven hours a day — the more likely you will develop high blood pressure in the future,” said Dr. Kaveh Hosseini, the study’s principal investigator and an assistant professor of cardiology at the Tehran Heart Center in Iran, in a statement. “We saw a trend between longer sleep durations and a greater occurrence of high blood pressure, but it was not statistically significant. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep, as is recommended by sleep experts, may be the best for your heart, too.”

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The research team reported that sleeping fewer than 7 hours was associated with a 7% increased risk of developing high blood pressure. That number increased to 11% when sleep duration was less than 5 hours.

Hosseini said the team compared that to the effects of diabetes and smoking, which they said are known to increase a person’s risk of hypertension by at least 20%.

Hosseini said that while researchers didn’t specifically look at possible causes, disrupted sleep could be to blame.

He said other factors could include sleep disorders such as sleep apnea as well as depression, anxiety, use of certain medications, alcohol, nightshift work, overeating, or other lifestyle habits.

High blood pressure risk greater for females

The study participants’ ages ranged from 35 years to 61 years. More than half (61%) were female.

Females reporting fewer than 7 hours of sleep had a 7% greater risk of developing high blood pressure.

The researchers expressed surprise they didn’t find age-based differences in the association between sleep duration and hypertension, as sleep patterns frequently shift as people age.

“Getting too little sleep appears to be riskier in females,” Hosseini said. “The difference is statistically significant, though we are not sure it’s clinically significant and should be further studied. What we do see is that lack of good sleep patterns may increase the risk of high blood pressure, which we know can set the stage for heart disease and stroke.”

The team said the study has limitations, including the data being self-reported so changes in sleep duration over the follow-up period weren’t assessed. There were also variations in the definitions of short sleep duration between the studies (fewer than 5 or 6 hours).

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“Further research is required to evaluate the association between sleep duration and high blood pressure using more accurate methods such as polysomnography, a method for evaluating sleep quality more precisely,” Hosseini said. “Moreover, the variations in reference sleep duration underline the need for standardized definition in sleep research to enhance the comparability and generalizability of findings across diverse studies.”

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