How Poor Sleep Can Ruin Your Blood Pressure: Establishing Healthy Habits

Sleep is essential for our health and well-being. It helps us to recharge our energy, regulate our hormones, and consolidate our memories.

But did you know that sleep also affects our blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of our arteries. It is measured by two numbers: systolic and diastolic. Systolic is the pressure when the heart beats, and diastolic is the pressure when the heart rests.

Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mmHg, while high blood pressure (or hypertension) is above 140/90 mmHg.

High blood pressure is a serious condition that can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.13 billion people worldwide have high blood pressure, and it is responsible for 10.4 million deaths every year.

One of the factors that can influence our blood pressure is our sleep quality and quantity.

In this article, we will explore the connection between sleep and blood pressure, and how we can establish healthy habits to improve both.

How Sleep Affects Blood Pressure

Our blood pressure is not constant throughout the day. It changes according to our activity level, stress, emotions, and circadian rhythm.

Circadian rhythm is our internal clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle and other biological processes.

During sleep, our blood pressure normally drops by about 10 to 20 percent. This is called nocturnal dipping, and it helps our heart and blood vessels to rest and repair.

However, some people do not experience this normal drop in blood pressure during sleep. They are called non-dippers, and they have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and organ damage.

There are several reasons why some people do not dip their blood pressure during sleep. One of them is poor sleep quality. Poor sleep quality can be caused by factors such as insomnia, sleep apnoea, restless legs syndrome, noise, light, temperature, or pain.

These factors can disrupt our sleep stages, especially the deep and REM stages, which are important for blood pressure regulation.

Another reason is poor sleep quantity. Poor sleep quantity means not getting enough sleep for our needs. The recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7 to 9 hours per night, but many people do not meet this guideline.

According to a study by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, about 35 percent of American adults report sleeping less than 7 hours per night.

Lack of sleep can have negative effects on our blood pressure in several ways. First, it can activate our sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response.

This can increase our heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones. Second, it can impair our production of nitric oxide, which is a molecule that helps to relax and dilate our blood vessels.

Third, it can interfere with our hormonal balance, such as reducing our levels of melatonin, which is a hormone that helps to lower blood pressure at night.

Establishing Healthy Habits for Better Sleep and Blood Pressure

The good news is that we can improve our sleep and blood pressure by adopting some healthy habits. Here are some tips that can help:

Stick to a regular sleep schedule.

Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends and holidays. This can help to synchronize our circadian rhythm and make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other stimulants before bed.

These substances can keep us awake and prevent our blood pressure from dipping during sleep. Avoid consuming them at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.

Create a comfortable and relaxing sleep environment.

Make sure our bedroom is dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable. Use curtains, blinds, earplugs, fans, or other devices to block out any noise or light that can disturb our sleep. Also, avoid using our bed for anything other than sleep and sex.

This can help to associate our bed with relaxation and sleepiness, rather than work, entertainment, or stress.

Follow a relaxing bedtime routine.

Engage in some calming activities before bed, such as reading, listening to soothing music, meditating, or doing some gentle stretches.

These can help to unwind our mind and body, and prepare us for sleep. Avoid any stimulating or stressful activities, such as watching TV, checking emails, or having arguments, as these can keep us alert and raise our blood pressure.

Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime.

Physical activity can have many benefits for our health, including lowering our blood pressure and improving our sleep quality.

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, preferably in the morning or afternoon.

Avoid exercising within 3 hours of bedtime, as this can make us too alert and prevent our blood pressure from dipping during sleep.

Manage our stress levels.

Stress can have a negative impact on both our sleep and blood pressure. It can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep, and it can also trigger our sympathetic nervous system and increase our blood pressure.

Find healthy ways to cope with stress, such as talking to someone, writing a journal, practicing gratitude, or doing some hobbies.

Also, avoid any unnecessary sources of stress, such as watching the news, scrolling through social media, or multitasking, especially before bed.

Consult our doctor if we have any medical conditions or medications that can affect our sleep or blood pressure.

Some medical conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid problems, kidney disease, or heart disease, can interfere with our sleep or blood pressure regulation.

Some medications, such as antidepressants, beta-blockers, steroids, or decongestants, can also have side effects on our sleep or blood pressure.

If we have any of these conditions or medications, we should talk to our doctor about how to manage them and whether we need any adjustments or alternatives.

Conclusion

Sleep and blood pressure are closely connected, and both are vital for our health and well-being. Poor sleep can increase our blood pressure and our risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems.

By following some healthy habits, we can improve our sleep quality and quantity, and lower our blood pressure naturally.

This can help us to prevent or manage hypertension, and enjoy a longer and happier life. Remember, sleep is not a luxury, but a necessity for our health. So, make sleep a priority, and reap the benefits for your blood pressure and beyond.

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