Most of us have occasional sleepless nights, and as long as they don’t happen a lot, they’re usually nothing to worry about. Too much caffeine, a stressful day, an upset tummy — lots of issues can interfere with sleep every now and then.
If you routinely have trouble sleeping, though, that’s cause for concern. Chronic lack of sleep can cause a lot of health problems, including high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart problems. According to the CDC, nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure, and about a third suffer from sleep problems.
At TLC Medical Group Inc., Anthony B. Lewis MD, FACC, and his team help patients in Port St. Lucie, Florida, learn ways to manage their high blood pressure and decrease their risks of heart disease and other serious complications. Here’s what Dr. Lewis wants you to know about your sleep patterns and your blood pressure.
Blood pressure is a measurement of the force or pressure your blood exerts on the walls of your arteries during circulation. If you have chronic high blood pressure, the extra force can damage your blood vessels and your organs, including your heart, kidneys, and liver.
Typically, hypertension causes no symptoms on its own. As a result, many people don’t know they have high blood pressure until a serious complication happens.
Hypertension has been linked with several serious complications, including:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Kidney problems
- Vision loss
- Metabolic syndrome
Anyone can have high blood pressure — even kids — but it’s more common among people who:
- Are overweight or obese
- Lead sedentary lifestyles
- Eat a diet high in sodium or unhealthy fats
- Have diabetes
- Have high cholesterol or atherosclerosis
- Have a family history of hypertension
High blood pressure also becomes more common with age.
How sleep affects blood pressure
For years, researchers have recognized the link between sleep problems and heart problems, but the underlying “connections” aren’t well understood. One possible reason is simple: When you sleep, your blood pressure goes down. If you’re having problems sleeping, your blood pressure stays elevated longer, increasing your risk for heart problems.
When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re also more prone to the effects of stress and anxiety. Although the link is unclear, researchers believe chronic stress also plays a role in keeping your blood pressure elevated.
On top of that, the fewer hours of sleep you have, the higher your blood pressure can soar. And if you already have hypertension, lack of sleep can make your blood pressure issues even worse.
Think you can make up for lack of sleep during the week by sleeping longer on the weekends? Research shows excessive sleep increases your risks of weight gain and elevated blood sugar levels, both of which can damage your heart.
Manage your blood pressure successfully
Sleep problems are common, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to catch those all-important Zs. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers a list of tips on what you can do — starting tonight — to improve your sleep habits.
If you already have high blood pressure, our team can work with you to establish a treatment plan that works for your health risks and your lifestyle. Most patients benefit from a combination of medication to lower blood pressure and lifestyle changes, like weight loss, healthy eating habits, and yes, better sleep routines.
Because hypertension doesn’t cause any problems on its own, having regular blood pressure screenings at our office is the best way to know if you’re at risk. To learn more about what you can do to manage your high blood pressure or to schedule a blood pressure screening, book an appointment with TLC Medical Group online or over the phone today.