Poor sleep quality increases blood pressure

People with the lowest level of slow wave sleep (SWS) had an 80 percent increased risk of developing high blood pressure. Sleep disorders and poor quality sleep are more common in older adults than in younger ones.

Reduced slow wave sleep (SWS) is a powerful predictor for developing high blood pressure in older men, according to new research in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers from the Outcomes of Sleep Disorders in Older Men Study (MrOs Sleep Study) found that people with the lowest level of SWS had an 80 percent increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

“Our study shows for the first time that poor quality sleep, reflected by reduced slow wave sleep, puts individuals at significantly increased risk of developing high blood pressure, and that this effect appears to be independent of the influence of breathing pauses during sleep,” said Susan Redline, M.D., the study’s co-author and Peter C. Farrell Professor of Sleep Medicine in the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass.

Men who spent less than 4 percent of their sleep time in SWS were significantly more likely to develop high blood pressure during the 3.4 years of the study. Men with reduced SWS had generally poorer sleep quality as measured by shorter sleep duration and more awakenings at night and had more severe sleep apnea than men with higher levels of SWS. However, of all measures of sleep quality, decreased SWS was the most strongly associated with the development of high blood pressure. This relationship was observed even after considering other aspects of sleep quality.

Using a central Sleep Reading Center directed by Redline, the researchers assessed a wide range of measurements of sleep disturbances, such as frequency of breathing disturbances, time in each sleep state, number of nighttime awakenings, and sleep duration.

Generally, older men and women are more likely to develop high blood pressure than younger people. Sleep disorders and poor quality sleep are more common in older adults than in younger ones. Obesity is also associated with hypertension, researchers said.

In the Sleep Heart Health Study, another large cohort study, researchers found that men were more likely to have less SWS than women. Men were also at an increased risk of high blood pressure when compared to women. The current study raises the possibility that poorer sleep in men may partly explain the male gender predisposition to high blood pressure.

Good quality sleep is the third pillar of health, Redline said. “People should recognize that sleep, diet and physical activity are critical to health, including heart health and optimal blood pressure control. Although the elderly often have poor sleep, our study shows that such a finding is not benign. Poor sleep may be a powerful predictor for adverse health outcomes. Initiatives to improve sleep may provide novel approaches for reducing hypertension burden.”

Source: American Heart Association, USA

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