April 3, 2009

Sleepless Nights Linked to High Blood Pressure

People who have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep may be putting themselves at risk for high blood pressure.

In a new study conducted among more than 1,700 men and women who underwent overnight sleep tests, Pennsylvania researchers found the combination of insomnia and a sleep duration of under five hours a night upped the chances a person would have high blood pressure by more than 500 percent when compared to people without insomnia who sleep for more than six hours a night.

People who reported insomnia and slept for five to six hours a night had a 350 percent increased risk.

The authors believe these are strong findings because sleep duration was measured objectively in the sleep laboratory. Other studies have relied on people's own assessment of how long they slept, which may not reflect actual hours spent in slumber.

How many people could be affected by this problem? The investigators note 8 percent of their study group fit the description for chronic insomnia, and 21% slept less than 5 hours a night. Twenty-three percent got between 5 and 6 hours of sleep. Applying these numbers to the population as a whole means between 8 percent and 10 percent of Americans may be at risk for high blood pressure associated with sleep problems.


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