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Insomnia raises hypertension risk

People with insomnia who are actually getting very little sleep have a sharply higher risk of high blood pressure than their peers…

Insomnia raises hypertension risk

People with insomnia who are actually getting very little sleep have a sharply higher risk of high blood pressure than their peers who have no trouble catching Z's. Previous research has proven that people with insomnia have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, greater activation of the sympathetic nervous system, and psychiatric problems such as anxiety and depression. But to investigate whether insomnia might also carry cardiovascular risks, researchers from Spain studied 1741 men and women. The data regarding the age, sex race, sex, body mass index, diabetes, smoking, alcohol use, depression, sleep disordered breathing (SDB), and weight of the subjects were collected. Poor sleep was defined as moderate to severe complaints of failure to fall asleep, not being able to stay asleep, and early wakening without a feeling of being rested. Subjects were defined as normal sleepers if they did not fall into either of the previous categories. It was found that 8 percent of the subjects were having insomnia, defined as difficulty falling asleep that lasted for at least 1 year, while 22 percent had less severe sleep problems. The rest were normal sleepers. Half of the participants got at least 6 hours of sleep, about a quarter slept for 5 to 6 hours, and the rest slept for less than 5 hours. People with insomnia who slept for at least 6 hours had no greater risk of hypertension. People with less serious sleep problems who slept less than 6 hours also had an increased risk of high blood pressure, but it was lower than for true insomniacs. Among the subjects with insomnia who slept less than 5 hours, the risk of high blood pressure was 50 percent greater than for those who didn't have insomnia and logged 6 hours or more of sleep. People with insomnia who slept 5 to 6 hours had 35 percent increased risk of hypertension. The findings make it clear that insomnia can have real medical consequences, and is not just a disorder of the worried well. About 1 in 10 people have insomnia but the health consequences of a much less common sleep problem, sleep apnoea, have gotten a lot more attention. Insomnia is typically treated with medication and psychotherapy, said the researchers. While the findings make it clear that people with insomnia and short sleep should take priority in treatment, this doesn't mean that people with insomnia who actually get relatively decent amounts of sleep shouldn't be treated too.
Sleep
April 2009
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