The world of science has recently come forth with yet another reason for us to get our Z’s: turns out that chronic insomnia along with a short sleep time is an independent and clinically significant risk factor for hypertension. In the study, participants with insomnia and an objectively-measured, sleep duration of less than five hours had a risk for hypertension that was 500 % higher than participants without insomnia who slept more than six hours. They also found that people with insomnia and a moderatelyshort sleep duration of five to six hours had a risk of hypertension that was 350 % higher than normal sleepers.
In contrast, neither just insomnia with a normal sleep duration of more than six hours nor a short sleep duration without insomnia was associated with a significant risk for hypertension. So this means that there is an additive or synergistic effect on hypertension risk when insomnia occurs in combination with a short sleep duration. We do need to note that that many times, the amount that we feel we slept is different from the actual amount that we have slept, so in order to know, you’d need to go to a sleep doctor for assessment. The study was cross-sectional so it did not allow for causality to be determined, but the authors note that large amounts of clinical and research data indicate that it is most likely that insomnia leads to hypertension and not the other way around.
Previous reports have shown that insomnia with short sleep duration is associated with hypersecretion of cortisol, increased catecholaminergic activity, increased heart rate and 24-hour metabolic rate, and impaired heart rate variability which may all lead to hypertension and other cardiovascular events. Bottom line is that the study urges people with insomnia to seek evaluation and treatment from their medical provider. And those of you with just insomnia and normal sleep—you may have a lower risk for physical problems but you’re still are at risk for depression and may suffer from the behavioral effects of insomnia—so you too should see your doctor!