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Lack of sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases
Many people in Germany suffer from sleep problems. Just last month, the DAK had published a report that sleep disorders among professionals between the ages of 35 and 65 have increased by 66 percent since 2010. The German Hypertension League now points out in a current message that sleep disorders are also a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.
In the long run, sleep disorders promote the development of cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, the experts report in advance of the symposium of the German Hypertension League (DHL) at the 123rd Annual Congress of the German Society for Internal Medicine (DGIM) in Mannheim. Lack of sleep should therefore be assessed as a serious health risk.
Effect after a sleepless night
In Germany, 12 percent of the population only get five hours or less of sleep a night, reports the German Hypertension League. One in three Germans state in surveys that they regularly suffer from difficulty falling or staying asleep. The direct consequences are not only fatigue and tiredness the day after, but also blood pressure increases, explains Professor Dr. med. Bernd Sanner, Medical Director at the Agaplesion Bethesda Hospital in Wuppertal and board member of DHL. The effect is already evident after a sleepless night, Prof. Sanner continues.
Less than six hours of sleep is a risk
According to the DHL expert, “People who sleep less than six hours on a regular basis are at 60 percent risk of developing high blood pressure.” If they also have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, the risk of hypertension increases four-fold. According to Prof. Sanner, the reason for the connection is the increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which switches humans into a “fight or flight” mode. Lack of sleep caused this increased activity. In addition, the release of stress hormones in the adrenal glands is increased when there is a lack of sleep.
Inflammatory activity increases with a lack of sleep
Recent studies have also shown that lack of sleep increases inflammatory activity in the body, says Prof. Sanner. "This then leads to a disturbance in the blood sugar metabolism and accelerated vascular calcification," explains the expert. A number of observational studies in recent years have shown that sleep disorders and sleep deprivation promote cardiovascular diseases in the long term. As a result, those affected "had an increased risk of developing a heart attack or chronic heart failure and dying."
Nocturnal drop in blood pressure
Cardiologists determine the effects of sleep disorders and lack of sleep on blood pressure in a so-called long-term blood pressure measurement. For this purpose, patients carry a device with them for 24 hours that carries out regular blood pressure measurements. Normally, a drop in blood pressure of around ten to 20 percent can be observed in healthy people at night. However, this effect (also called dipping) is weakened or eliminated in people who sleep too little or badly. "In extreme cases, there is even a nightly increase in blood pressure," says Professor Sanner.
Increased risk of death
In the worst case, the failure of the blood pressure to drop at night due to sleep disorders can pose a fatal risk. "In studies, a reduced nightly dipping, the so-called non-dipping, was also associated with an increased mortality rate," said Prof. When the blood pressure rose at night, the risk of death was about twice as high. However, according to Professor Sanner, sleeping pills cannot solve the problem. Instead, patients have to search with their doctors for the underlying causes, Sanner said.
Sleep hygiene with a far-reaching impact
According to the expert, improved sleep hygiene with regular sleeping times and the avoidance of extreme stress and alcohol consumption in the evenings can already bring about significant improvements. It should also be borne in mind that mental stress can also be responsible for sleep disorders and thus for high blood pressure. In addition, so-called obstructive sleep apnea is another common cause. This is associated with loud snoring and breathing interruptions during sleep. In the frequent pauses in breathing, there is a regular increase in blood pressure, which in total then eliminates the nightly dipping.
Examine high blood pressure patients in the sleep laboratory
According to Prof. Sanner, patients with high blood pressure and abnormal long-term blood pressure values should also be examined in a sleep laboratory. In his view, lack of sleep and possible underlying sleep disorders should always be part of the medical history of high blood pressure - especially in patients who do not respond to the therapy or who show non-dipping in 24-hour measurements. (fp)