The study conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, found a significant association between insufficient sleep and hypertension in women. The researchers recommend that women who experience insufficient sleep or sleep troubles should undergo screening for high blood pressure and seek ways to address sleep issues.
Here are the key findings from the study:
- Study Participants: The research involved 66,122 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study 2 (NHS2), ranging in age from 25 to 42 at the time of enrollment. None of the participants had hypertension when they entered the study in 2001.
- Follow-Up Period: The researchers followed the health status of the participants for 16 years, regularly assessing their blood pressure every two years.
- Hypertension Risk Factors: The study found that the risk of hypertension in women was associated with both insufficient sleep and sleep troubles.
- Insufficient Sleep: Women who slept for equal to or less than five hours per day were 10% more likely to develop hypertension. Those who slept for six hours had a 7% increased risk of developing hypertension. However, there was no increased risk for women who slept more than eight hours.
- Sleep Troubles: Women who reported sometimes or usually having trouble sleeping were 14% and 28% more likely to have hypertension, respectively, compared to those who rarely had sleep problems.
- Other Factors: The study also revealed that women with insomnia or sleep difficulties tended to have higher BMI, engage in less physical activity, have a poorer diet, and were more likely to smoke tobacco, consume alcohol, and be postmenopausal. These factors could also contribute to the complex relationship between sleep and hypertension.
The study does not establish causality, meaning it cannot definitively determine whether insufficient sleep directly causes hypertension or if the relationship is more complex. The researchers suggested possible mechanisms through which poor sleep might promote hypertension, such as disruptions in sodium retention, arterial stiffness, and cardiac output.
However, they also acknowledged the hypothesis that hypertension could result in poor sleep due to interruptions in the typical 24-hour blood pressure pattern, where blood pressure drops during sleep and rises upon waking.
In summary, while the study highlights a strong association between insufficient sleep, sleep troubles, and hypertension in women, further research is needed to fully understand the underlying mechanisms and causality in this relationship. It emphasizes the importance of addressing sleep quality and duration as a potential risk factor for high blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health in women.