Stressful jobs or juggling work and family commitments often means that a full night’s sleep is a luxury rarely enjoyed. Caffeine to keep us going through the day can also have an effect on sleep patterns. However, as well as feeling drowsy, gaining weight and having difficulty concentrating, studies show that lack of sleep may result in high blood pressure – a serious risk to overall health.

Studies Linking Lack of Sleep and Hypertension
Studies by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School found that lack of sleep causes many unfortunate side effects, including high blood pressure.

On average, around 12% of those who sleep 7-8 hours per night develop high blood pressure. In studies, those who slept less than this ideal amount were found to be twice as likely to develop high blood pressure. Further studies by the Archives of Internal medicine showed that each hour of missed sleep per night raised the likelihood of developing high blood pressure by 37%.

What is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is when blood applies higher-than-normal pressure on the walls of the arteries. When measured, the norm should be around 120/80 mm Hg or less. Those who have blood pressure of 140/90 or above are diagnosed as having high blood pressure. One of the causes of this raised blood pressure has been found to be lack of sleep.

High blood pressure in considered a severe condition and can be a precursor to heart disease. The excess pressure exerted by the blood flow can cause heart disorders and coronary heart disease if left untreated.

Why We Need Sleep
Sleep is nature’s way of slowing down the heart rate, relaxing the mind and lowering our blood pressure for a considerable period in each 24-hour period. A study on sleep deprivation by Columbia University found that middle-aged adults who slept five hours or less per night were more likely to suffer from hypertension than those who slept seven hours or more.

During sleep, the body regulates stress hormones. This does not happen in those who are sleep deprived, and this has been found to be a common factor in raised blood pressure. It is particularly significant in those under the age of 60. After that age, it seems that the body naturally needs less sleep and it does not cause the same side effect.

Reduced slow wave sleep (SWS) is one of the deeper stages of sleep and is characterized by non-rapid eye-movement when it is hard to awaken. Researchers studying the outcome of sleep disorders found that those with the lowers level of SWS had an 80% higher risk of developing hypertension than those with a better level of deep sleep.

If you are suffering from high blood pressure, before rushing off to get medication, carefully assess your sleep pattern. Perhaps more sleep is all that you require to lower your blood pressure safely and naturally.