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A poor night’s sleep may raise blood pressure and harm the heart, study finds

Photo: LordHenriVoton/iStockphoto

Tucson, AZ — A restless night may trigger a spike in blood pressure that lasts into the day – a possible explanation for why sleep problems have been shown to increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and even death from cardiovascular disease, results of a recent study suggest.

Researchers from the University of Arizona recruited 300 men and women between the ages of 21 and 70 who had no history of cardiovascular disease. For 48 hours, the participants wore portable blood pressure cuffs that took random blood-pressure readings. They also wore actigraphy monitors – wristwatch-like devices – at night to monitor their sleep quality.

Participants who slept less soundly experienced increases in blood pressure during the night and had a higher systolic blood pressure – the first number in a blood pressure reading, measured when the heart contracts and blood moves through the arteries – the next day.

Additional research is needed, however, “to understand why poor sleep raises blood pressure and what it could mean long-term for people with chronic sleep issues,” the researchers said in a June 4 press release.

“Blood pressure is one of the best predictors of cardiovascular health,” lead author Caroline Doyle, a graduate student in the UA Department of Psychology, said in the release. “There is a lot of literature out there that shows sleep has some kind of impact on mortality and on cardiovascular disease, which is the No. 1 killer of people in the country.

“This study stands on the shoulders of a broad literature looking at sleep and cardiovascular health. This is one more study that shows something is going on with sleep and our heart health. Sleep is important, so whatever you can do to improve your sleep, it’s worth prioritizing.”

The study was published online May 10 in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

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