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Sleeping for less than 7 hours raises blood pressure risk

Did you know sleepless nights might be doing more than ruining your mood? Turns out, a habit of too little sleep could be quietly ratcheting up your risk of high blood pressure.

High blood pressure

Let’s talk blood pressure for a minute. That number your doctor always takes? It’s a measure of the force of blood pushing on your artery walls.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is like too much water rushing through a hose – it puts a dangerous strain on your whole cardiovascular system.

Sadly, high blood pressure often shows no outward symptoms at all until it leads to serious problems like heart disease, stroke, or kidney damage. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the risk factors.

Sleep and blood pressure

So, where does sleep fit in? A huge new study pooling data from over a million people just revealed a troubling pattern: the less sleep you get, the higher your likelihood of developing high blood pressure over time.

“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 Kaveh Hosseini, MD, assistant professor of cardiology at the Tehran Heart Center in Iran and principal investigator of the study.

Researchers found that sleeping less than seven hours a night was linked to a significant increase in risk, and the risk climbed even further for those averaging less than five hours a night.


Scientists are still unraveling the exact reasons behind this connection, but here are some potential culprits:

  • Hormonal havoc: Skimping on sleep throws your body’s stress hormones out of whack, which can constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure.
  • Inflammation overload: Chronic sleep deprivation may lead to increased inflammation throughout your body, putting stress on your circulatory system.
  • Unhealthy habitsSleep-deprived people might be more likely to overeat, be less active, or rely on alcohol to unwind – all factors linked to high blood pressure.
  • Sleep disorders: Obstructive sleep apnea, where your breathing is interrupted throughout the night, can put immense strain on your cardiovascular system.

Women at higher risk of blood pressure?

Interestingly, women who slept less than seven hours nightly seemed to be at an even higher risk for developing hypertension compared to men. “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.”

Debunking sleep myths

Let’s clear up some common misconceptions about sleep and blood pressure:

Myth: Can’t I just catch up on lost sleep over the weekend?

Not really. While getting extra rest can help temporarily, it doesn’t undo the long-term effects of chronic sleep deprivation.

Consistently short-changing yourself on sleep during the week leads to a sleep debt that weekend snoozing can’t fully repay.

The disruption to your body’s internal clock can contribute to poor sleep quality, making the problem worse.

Myth: Isn’t a little high blood pressure normal as you get older?

While blood pressure does tend to increase with age, it’s not inevitable. Maintaining healthy habits, including good sleep, can make a big difference.

Lifestyle factors such as a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep are key in managing blood pressure levels, regardless of age.

Myth: Do naps count towards the total sleep I need?

Naps can be a great way to recharge, especially if you’re not getting enough sleep at night. However, they shouldn’t be seen as a complete substitute for uninterrupted nighttime sleep.

The quality of sleep you get at night plays a crucial role in your overall health, including blood pressure management. Napping too long or too late in the day can also interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.

Myth: Is it only the quantity of sleep that matters, not the quality?

Quality is just as important as quantity. Poor sleep quality, even if you spend a long time in bed, can lead to health issues similar to those caused by not getting enough sleep.

Factors that influence sleep quality include the sleep environment, going to bed and waking up at consistent times, and avoiding stimulants before bedtime.

Good quality sleep means going through all the sleep stages, including deep sleep, when your body gets the most rest.

Myth: If I don’t feel tired, my sleep must be sufficient, right?

Not necessarily. Some individuals may not feel tired despite getting insufficient sleep. This doesn’t mean their body isn’t feeling the effects.

Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a state of constant fatigue that you might not even recognize because it becomes your new normal.

Moreover, the impact on health, such as increased blood pressure, can occur regardless of whether you feel tired.

Real-world impact

It might seem abstract, but high blood pressure has very real consequences. Over time, it can lead to:

  • Heart attack: High blood pressure damages arteries, making them prone to blockages.
  • Stroke: Similar damage can occur in the arteries leading to your brain.
  • Kidney failure: Your kidneys are highly dependent on healthy blood flow.

Beyond sleep duration

While sleep is a major player, it’s just one piece of the blood pressure puzzle. Here are other key factors that work together with sleep:

  • Diet: A heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps. Excess salt is a big culprit.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity strengthens your heart and blood vessels.
  • Stress Management: Chronic stress can keep your blood pressure elevated.

What can you do?

  • Prioritize sleep: Make those 7-8 hours a non-negotiable part of your health routine.
  • Good sleep hygiene: Dark room, cool temperatures, ditching screens before bed – you know the drill.
  • Talk to Your Doctor: Especially if you have sleep problems, unexplained fatigue, or other risk factors for hypertension, don’t ignore it. Your doctor can help pinpoint any issues and recommend the best course of action.

Remember, it’s never too late to make changes for your heart health. Start by understanding your risk factors and make sleep a top priority!


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