In recent years, new research into sleep and its effect on the body has shown several significant relationships between sleep disturbances and disorders, and major health problems. A new study recently published in Hypertension, an online journal of the American Heart Association, continues this trend. As part of the Outcomes of Sleep Disorders in Older Men Study, researchers at the University of California–San Diego and Harvard University compared the sleep studies of participants to see if there was a link between sleep patterns and high blood pressure. They found that there is a very specific link which opens the door for more comprehensive research.
The study showed that men who have very low rates of slow wave sleep have a significantly higher risk of developing high blood pressure or hypertension. This type of sleep falls within the n-REM sleep stages and is thought to be restorative and play a key role in processing memories. It is not uncommon for the amount of slow wave sleep people get each night to decrease as they age. Children spend about 40% of their time in SWS and healthy adults average about 25%. The study participants, whose average age was 75, typically spent about 11% of their time sleeping in SWS. There were, however, a group of participants who were only getting 4% of SWS over the course of the night.
The study was conducted over a three year time span, beginning with an in-home sleep study which included blood pressure monitoring and ended with additional blood pressure tracking. Factors like obesity, BMI, race, and sleep disordered breathing conditions were factored out of the comparison without causing any change the base result. Men in their 70’s who get the lowest amount of SWS have an 80% risk of developing high blood pressure.
While the findings do not prove a cause and effect relationship between slow wave sleep and the risk of high blood pressure, they do add to the evidence that there is a strong correlation between sleep and cardiovascular health. Additional research needs to be done that includes additional data points, a higher volume of participants, and incorporates the impact of other factors like diet and underlying medical conditions.
Decreased amounts of slow wave sleep are a part of aging, but seniors can fight back with good sleep habits. Practicing good sleep hygiene by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day and avoiding sleep deterrents like fatty foods and alcohol are critical to sleep success well into the senior years. If you are concerned about your sleep schedule and how it might affect your overall health, talk to your doctor.
About Valley Sleep Center:
Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients. Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems. They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare. For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900; http://www.valleysleepcenter.com.