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November 30

Sleep and Hypertension

Sleep! Dear Sleep! Don’t we all love to sleep? We all love to take a few hours off our busy schedules to rest our heads and minds and bask in the euphoria of paradise and dream sweet dreams. As beautiful as sleeping is, many of us are deprived of that privilege.

Insomnia which is defined as the lack of sleep is associated with increased resting heart rate, higher metabolic rate (the rate at which your body uses energy), higher body temperature.

Sleep apnoea and restless leg syndrome are the two critical causes of poor sleep. Ridiculously so, deep sleep accounts for just 20% to 25% of our sleeping time and this is just about 90 minutes to 120 minutes of total sleep hours.

How does poor sleep cause hypertension?

Sleep apnoea occurs when one has intermittent periods of breathlessness during sleep, during this period, the individual practically stops breathing for a varied amount of time. When this happens, your blood pressure levels go up and because you are not breathing, your oxygen levels are low. This causes the brain to send signals to your blood vessels to tighten up in order to increase blood flow of oxygen to the brain and the heart. The issue with this process is that even though they commence at night, the persists till day time even when the person is awake.

Restless leg syndrome on the other hand describes a situation whereby we constantly move our body parts usually our legs, but in some cases the hands in order to relieve it of some mild pain. Usually we tend to move just one of the legs.

The average person’s blood pressure falls by about 10 mmHg during sleep and this occurs only during deep sleep described above. When the blood pressure doesn’t fall at night, the condition is called non-dipping and it is a risk factor for heart disease. The length of deep sleep also declines as you grow older.

Ways to improve our sleeping time and quality:

  • Being more physically and mentally active during the day has been observed to increase the amount of deep sleep at night.
  • Obesity increases the risk of sleep apnoea. Weight gain leads to compromised respiratory function when your trunk and neck are increase and so therefore in order to sleep more soundly, it is advisable to reduce your weight. Also snoring is usually as a result of excess weight, and deep snoring is another cause of shortened sleep time.

deep and frequent snoring will negatively affect your sleep
deep and frequent snoring will negatively affect your sleep

  • Avoid using caffeine during the day: lack of sleep can result in a vicious cycle whereby we tend to be more tired during the day, and in order to carry out our daily activities, we tend to consume caffeine in the form of coffees and other means to stay awake. The negative side to this is; the more caffeine you take to stay active, the harder it becomes to fall asleep at night.

limit caffeine use as much as possible during the day
limit caffeine use as much as possible during the day

  • Limiting evening food and drink: a large meal or snack too close to bedtime can cause your digestive system to work extra hours while the rest of body is awake. Alcohol intake at night although may make you drowsy, but it will disrupt your sleep pattern depriving you of a deep and restorative sleep. Drinking lots of water before bedtime as you know will cause you to wake up frequently at night to use the toilet and this will also disturb your sleep.
  • Taking a hot bath before sleeping: our body temperature dips at night usually starting at 2 hours before sleep and ending at about 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. when you have a hot bath, your temperature rises and there is a rapid cool-down period initiated by your body immediately afterward that relaxes you, this is likely to put you into deep sleep.

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