Short sleep cycles lead to elevated blood pressure, researchers warn

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Mayo Clinic researchers have affirmed that consecutive or prolonged periods of abbreviated sleep can wreak havoc on heart rates and blood pressure, a finding relevant to practically any sleep-challenged worker or nursing home resident.

Study lead author Naima Covassin, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic cardiovascular diseases research fellow, said the results of her colleagues' work provides conclusive evidence that “insufficient sleep causes increases in nighttime blood pressure and dampens nocturnal blood pressure dipping.”

The research involved a controlled study that mimics the sleep loss experienced by many people. Study participants age 19 to 36 were closely monitored over a 16-day period that included nine consecutive days of abbreviated sleep (four hours) or “normal” sleep (nine hours).

Systolic and diastolic blood pressure in sleep-deprived participants averaged 115/64 mm Hg, compared to 105/57 mm Hg among those in nine-hour sleep cycles. While blood pressure normally falls in healthy people during a full night's of sleep, that movement was hindered among sleep deprived participants.

Results of the study were to be presented at a session of the American College of Cardiology's 64th Annual Scientific Session in San Diego.