You’ve probably heard that getting a full night’s sleep is critical for good health, but do you know what exactly happens to the body when you don’t get enough sleep? Some of the effects are obvious. You may feel fatigued, irritable, or groggy when you haven’t slept enough the night before, but are you considering the more permanent effects of regular sleep deprivation? If you aren’t sleeping for about 7-8 hours each night, you may be putting your heart, lung, and brain health at risk due to an increased likelihood for hypertension, or high blood pressure. Though the exact link between high blood pressure and sleep loss isn’t clear, it is known that those who don’t sleep enough are at greater risk for this silent but deadly condition. If sleep apnea is the cause of your sleep loss, your risk is even higher. Therefore, you should be diligent about checking your blood pressure when you know you aren’t getting the sleep you need, and you should seek care for the condition behind your sleep loss.
How does sleep affect blood pressure?
Though there’s still more research to be done regarding the effects of sleep deprivation on blood pressure, it is clear that people who sleep 3-6 hours per night have an elevated risk of hypertension. One likely reason is the overproduction of stress hormones that occurs with sleep loss, which can place added stress on your heart and circulatory system.
Why is sleep apnea a risk factor for high blood pressure?
If you are losing sleep due to sleep apnea—which may cause you to wake up intermittently throughout the night—your risk of high blood pressure may be even higher. Sleep apnea causes oxygen levels in the blood to fall, because it will cause a person to repeatedly stop breathing during sleep. This puts even more physical stress on the heart and blood vessels, so high blood pressure is often a result of untreated sleep apnea.