Sleep Deprivation May Raise Women's Blood Pressure
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
In today's hectic world, it can be hard to get the recommended seven hours of sleep a night. But not sleeping takes its toll. Long-term sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of developing many serious conditions such as heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes, stunted height in growing children and teenagers, and depression. A recent British study has also found a strong link between sleep deprivation and blood pressure in women. The study involved roughly 10,000 participants, and followed them over the course of five years. Women under sixty years of age who got six hours of sleep or less a night on a regular basis were two times more likely to develop high blood pressure than their well-rested counterparts.
The Link Between Sleep Deprivation and Blood Pressure
During sleep, blood pressure falls, a phenomenon known as the "nighttime dip." When people do not get enough sleep, this dip is less pronounced, and overall blood pressure stays higher. Over time, this can lead to a permanent increase in blood pressure. Some scientists believe that the relationship is a bit more complicated than that. They theorize that sleep deprivation causes the nervous system to become hyperactive. This hyperactive nervous system, in turn, affects the entire body. The heart and blood vessels are constantly stimulated by the overactive nervous system, and the end result is high blood pressure.
The Dangers of High Blood Pressure
There are no symptoms of high blood pressure. This does not mean it is not dangerous, however. High blood pressure can lead to heart failure, heart attacks, strokes, retinal damage, and kidney failure. If untreated, it can be fatal. Because high blood pressure does not cause any symptoms, regular check-ups with your doctor to monitor your blood pressure are very important.
How to Get the Recommended Seven Hours a Night
Because of the many adverse health consequences of sleep deprivation, it is very important to get enough sleep. If your sleep deprivation is caused by a sleeping or mood disorder, talk to your doctor about what can be done. If, however, it is the result of stress and a hectic lifestyle, there are many things you can do to make it easier to fall asleep and get the amount of sleep that you need.
- Stick to a routine. Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day (even during the weekend!) helps regulate the sleep cycle and makes it easier to fall asleep in the evenings. Develop a soothing ritual (e.g. reading, taking a bubble bath), and do it every night before going to bed. Your brain will start associating this ritual with sleep, and so it will prime you to fall asleep fast.
- Don't take long naps, they'll detract from your night-time sleeping.
- Incorporate exercise into your routine. Aerobic exercise makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
- Stay away from stimulants. Caffeine and nicotine can keep you awake through the night. Ideally, you shouldn't drink any coffee during the eight hours before going to bed, and don't smoke during the evening.
- Make your bed and bedroom comfortable. Eliminate distractions, adjust temperature and humidity, buy sheets with a high thread-count, etc. The more you pamper yourself, the easier to fall asleep.
A good night's rest will make you more alert and happy the next day, and the benefits will keep coming for years as sleep keeps you healthy.