Let Sleeping Hypertensives Lie

A well-designed recent study showed just how important sleep is to your blood pressure. Other studies in the past have revealed an association between time-spent-sleeping, and high blood pressure, but none of those studies actually measured a person’s sleep (they were, instead, based on self-report) and almost none looked at blood pressure over time.

A child sleeping.
Image via Wikipedia

This recent study did both – and found some eye-opening (so to speak) results:

  • Every hour LESS you sleep, you increase your risk of high blood pressure by 37%
  • Much of the difference between, say, African-American men (who have long been shown to suffer from more high blood pressure) and white women, can be attributed to differences in their sleep. African-American men slept much less than white women
  • Over five years, less than 8 hours of sleep a night resulted in both more high blood pressure among people, and worse high blood pressure when they got it
  • Finally, here’s the read-it-and-weep number: only 1% of people got eight or more hours of sleep a night

The study authors pointed out to heartwire/Medscape some important observations: first, that their study could not address the role of sleep-disordered breathing (or sleep apnea, and, second, that “those individuals who appear to need only three or four hours of sleep each night may be fooling themselves. ‘People who sleep for short times do not do well in performance tests, even if they think they are well rested. Even these people should try to increase their sleep times,’ she said.”

Sleep is a free, no-side-effects intervention (well, except for those pillow-crease marks on my cheek). Despite the longer days of summer, set a goal to make sleep a priority. Turn off those glowing screens (even this one! even the tiny ones on your phone!) – then lie in the dark and let yourself drift. For your health.

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