Irregular Sleep Linked to High Blood Pressure & Heart Disease
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Irregular Sleep Linked to High Blood Pressure & Heart Disease

If you have high blood pressure, you can add poor sleep to the list of potential causes.

A recent study found that people with irregular sleep patterns may face substantially higher odds of high blood pressure (BP) than those who stick to a regular sleep schedule. The study found people who slept in on the weekends or varied the times they went to sleep and woke up throughout the week—we’re looking at you weekend sleep-er inners—were substantially more likely to have high blood pressure than those who kept regular going-to-bed and waking times.

What’s driving the rise in BP is the interruption of a natural rhythm in our bodies called ‘nocturnal dipping.’ When a regular sleep schedule is maintained, our BP drops by 10% at night, giving our hearts a bit of a rest. However, if we’re not sleeping long enough or well enough, the heart doesn’t get that chance to rest and recover. 

The fallout of missed nocturnal dipping appears to be an increase in BP and risk of cardiovascular disease. But that’s not all. Too little or too much sleep can lead to other health risks. Specifically, getting less than six hours of sleep a night has been shown to increase the risk for obesity and premature death.   

It’s important to note that even if you get the recommended amount of sleep each night, keeping an irregular sleep schedule—even one that only varies by 35 minutes—can increase your risk for high BP and cardiovascular disease. 

The best way to improve the quality of your sleep and your health is to establish a consistent bedtime routine. Here’s how to get started:

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule by getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends and during vacations.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine and a bedtime that allows for you to get 7-8 hours of sleep.
  • Keep your bedroom at a cool, comfortable temperature.
  • Keep lights dim throughout the evening.
  • Unplug from all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Avoid eating a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry, opt for a light, healthy snack.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol in the hours before bedtime.
  • Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex.

If you continue to have issues with recurring waking during sleep or are feeling sleepy during daytime hours, even after getting adequate sleep, you may have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. Contact your healthcare provider to schedule a visit to discuss the options for improving your sleep and overall health. 

Michael Algus, MD, FACP is a pulmonologist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.


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