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Chiropractic Research Review

Decreased Sleep Time Linked to Increased Risk of Hypertension

Despite improvements in the awareness, treatment and control of hypertension, the incidence of this condition continues to increase in the United States. Evidence suggests this increase may be due to decreases in average sleep time.

Previous studies have shown that depriving otherwise healthy subjects of sleep can lead to acute increases in high blood pressure. Prolonged exposure to reduced sleep, therefore, could lead to the development of hypertension via extended exposure to raised 24-hour blood pressure, elevated heart rate and sympathetic nervous system activity.

To determine the relationship between sleep duration and hypertension, researchers conducted a longitudinal analysis of data on 4,810 individuals from the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Study. None of the study subjects had high blood pressure at baseline; during the study's follow-up period, however, 647 participants were diagnosed with hypertension.

Compared to patients who slept a minimum of seven hours per night, subjects who slept five or few hours per night were 76 percent more likely to be diagnosed with hypertension. These patients also had a higher average body mass index, and reported exercising less frequently. Even after adjusting for factors such as smoking, physical activity levels and age, patients sleeping five or less hours per night were 44 percent more likely to have hypertension compared to patients who slept between seven and eight hours per night.

"The results from this study suggest that short sleep duration could play a role in the etiology of hypertension in some individuals," the authors concluded. "Further research is needed to investigate the biological mechanisms that link short sleep duration and high blood pressure." If prolonged short sleep duration does indeed cause hypertension, the authors suggest that practitioners recommend the use of educational and behavioral interventions designed to improve both the duration and quality of patients' sleep.

Gangwisch JE, Heymsfield SB, Boden-Albala B, et al. Short sleep duration as a risk factor for hypertension: analyses of the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association May 2006;47(5):833-839.

Chiropractic Research Review

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