Sleep Quality Affects Blood Pressure, Study Finds

Everyone has a restless night now and then and it really isn’t a big deal, right?  Well, a new study from scientists at the University of Arizona say that lack of sleep can have a negative effect on blood pressure, which can compound over time. 

Lead study author Caroline Doyle explains that blood pressure is among our best predictors of cardiovascular health.  The UA Department of Psychology graduate student goes on to say, “There is a lot of literature out there that shows sleep has some kind of impact on mortality and on cardiovascular diseases, which is the #1 killer of people in the country.”  Thus, she says, the research team aimed to investigate how sleep could impact this disease through its relationship with blood pressure. 

Indeed, the link between poor sleep and cardiovascular health is pretty well established—and increasingly more available in scientific literature—but its relationship is not as thoroughly understood. 

As such, researchers set out to see if they could determine this relationship but studying 300 men and women between the ages of 21 and 70. None of the study participants had any history of heart issues. For the study, each person wore portable blood pressure cuffs for two days.  These cuffs would randomly take their blood pressure during 45-minute intervals over the course of each day and their conjoined night. 

At night, the participants also wore actigraphy monitors. These are devices that fit on the wrist—much like a watch—to measure movements and better determine overall “sleep efficiency” (the amount of time spend sleeping soundly in bed). 

Overall, the researchers found that those with lower sleep efficiency also had blood pressure spikes during their restless night. This population also had higher systolic blood pressure the following day. 

While the study did manage to reveal this relationship, it is still not understood why poor sleep has this effect on blood pressure. More importantly, the findings further raise questions about the long-term effect on blood pressure (and cardiovascular health) among those with chronic sleep issues.  

At the end of the day, the study simply reinforces the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. Even if we don’t yet understand how good sleep is related to heart health, the study certainly supports that they are related and, thus, we should do all we can to ensure we have the best quality sleep. 

The results of this study has been published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.