Can High Blood Pressure Cause Insomnia?

Can Insomnia Cause High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is becoming a more common disorder in the United States.

32-38% of adults 20 years and older are reported to have it.

The data below is based on self-reports! 

The actual rate of high blood pressure could be even higher as its believed that 1 in 5 adults with high blood pressure are not aware of it and thus do not self-report it. 


The prevalence of hypertension in the US of adults 20 years and old taken from the CDC

 

According to the CDC, a more accurate number of people that have high blood pressure in the United States could be nearly 1 out of every 2 adults. 

Of the people who have high blood pressure, only 1 in 4 adults have this condition under control. This is incredibly scary as high blood pressure is both preventable and treatable!

In 2019, high blood pressure was either the main cause or contributed to the death of 516,955 people in the United States. 

 

“High blood pressure costs the United States around $131-198 billion dollar each year”.

 

These losses are attributed to the costs of health care, the medications used to treat this disorder, and the loss of productivity due to premature death. This does not even include the productivity losses from non-fatal illnesses that are developed from high blood pressure!


What Is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is defined as the pressure that’s measured within the largest arteries in our circulatory system. Arteries are responsible for delivering blood to your muscles and organs. 


A picture of a man and woman's circulatory system. There are red blood vessels connecting all their organs and muscles together

 

Blood pressure is divided into two separate readings. One is called systolic pressure and the other is called diastolic pressure.

  1. Systolic Pressure is the maximum pressure in your arteries when your heart is contracting to move blood.
  2. Diastolic Pressure is the lowest pressure in your arteries when your heart is relaxing between beats. 

Three components make up blood pressure which includes:

  1. Cardiac Output: The amount of blood your heart pumps per minute
  2. How stiff or elastic your arteries are
  3. Peripheral Vascular Resistance: The resistance your circulatory system puts on your arteries to direct blood flow. This consists of vasodilation and vasoconstriction.
    1. Vasodilation: The widening of blood vessels to increase blood flow.
    2. Vasoconstriction: The narrowing of blood vessels to reduce blood flow. 

This is very important because your body is constantly changing your blood pressure in response to your environment and diet!

There are blood pressure sensors in your body called baroreceptors that analyze your current blood pressure and try to bring it back to a normal state. 


What Is High Blood Pressure? 

In 2017, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association published this guideline for defining hypertension and its different stages.


A table that categorizes various levels of systolic and diastolic blood pressure into normal, pre hypertension, then stage 1 and stage 2 hypertension

 

As shown in the diagram, high blood pressure or hypertension happens when your systolic pressure is 130 mmHg or greater and your diastolic blood pressure is 80 mmHg or greater.

Hypertension increases your risk of developing a heart attack, heart failure, stroke, aneurysm and dementia.  


What Causes High Blood Pressure?

There are two types of hypertension, essential (90-95% of cases) and secondary hypertension (5-10% of cases). 

The cause behind essential hypertension is not known however, it is thought to be linked to a combination of genetics, obesity, poor diet, smoking, alcohol and a lack of exercise. 

A diet high in salt can make your arteries stiffer which can increase your systolic and diastolic blood pressure. 

The worldwide sodium intake ranges from 3500 mg to 5500 mg! For reference, a teaspoon of salt contains 2000 mg of salt. 


According to the National Health Service, adults should not eat more than 2400 mg of sodium a day. Some people more than double this intake every single day!”

 

On the other hand, the causes of secondary hypertension can be subdivided into four categories.

  1. Kidney Issues: Your kidneys help regulate blood pressure. If they are damaged this can cause high blood pressure. 
  2. Hormone Issues: There can be various health disorders that can impact the release of your hormones which can cause an increase in blood pressure.
  3. A birth defect can narrow your heart arteries making them less efficient at pumping blood. The result is an increase in blood pressure. 
  4. Certain medications can cause high blood pressure. 

What Causes High Blood Pressure Attacks During Sleep? 

At night blood pressure normally decreases by 10-20% when compared to daytime blood pressure.

There are four types of blood pressure dips during sleep:

  1. Dipper: Represents the normal 10-20% decrease in blood pressure.
  2. Extreme Dipper: Represents a blood pressure decrease of greater than 20%.
  3. Non-Dipper: Represents a blood pressure decrease of less than 10%
  4. Reverse Dipper: Represents a blood pressure increase. 

A graph showing how different dips of blood pressure throughout the night  

Extreme dippers are at risk of strokes and brain damage while non-dippers and reverse dippers are at risk of death, a heart attack or stroke. 

You are most likely to have a heart attack in the morning (9 am - 11 am). This is due to the morning surge you have in blood pressure. This morning surge can be dangerous if you already have high blood pressure!

 

Some diseases that can cause a spike in your blood pressure at night include diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and insomnia.

If you have sudden episodes of high blood pressure that cause you to wake up it could be because of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

OSA happens when your airway is partially or fully blocked. This can cause you to stop breathing! The result is a massive increase in blood pressure.

To prevent your body from shutting down from a lack of oxygen, your body forcibly wakes you up. If you suffer from this condition, you could wake up at least five times an hour gasping for air. 

The major factors that determine OSA are the thickness and size of your tongue as well as the structure of your mouth, neck and jaw. 

 

This disorder can affect 24-26% of men and 17-28% of women between the ages of 30-70”


What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is characterized into two subcategories depending on how long it persists. There is short-term insomnia and chronic insomnia. 


Short-Term Insomnia

Sleep disturbances have been present for over 3 months.


Chronic Insomnia

Sleep disturbances that occur at least 3 times a week and must be present for the last 3 months.

To evaluate insomnia, a doctor needs your detailed sleep history. The doctor is looking to identify if your sleep disturbances are from difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or both!

 

Evaluation

To determine if you have insomnia, your doctor will complete a laboratory workup to see if the reason you have difficulty sleeping is due to an underlying medical condition.

If everything comes back as okay then they will proceed to give you a questionnaire and sleep diary. The questionnaire is a self-reporting document in which you rate your sleep quality. The sleep diary is there to help you log all the factors that led up to your sleep as well as your sleep quality. 

This can allow your doctor to look at what has been working to help you sleep better!


Read More On Insomnia

Can ADHD Cause Insomnia?

Can Insomnia Cause Anxiety?


Can Insomnia Cause High Blood Pressure? 

Sleep deprivation, short sleep duration and persistent insomnia are associated with an increase in blood pressure. This increase in blood pressure can also increase the risk of hypertension. 

The reason insomnia and other sleep disorders cause high blood pressure is due to the overactivation of stress pathways. A lack of good quality sleep can impair brain function preventing it from being able to deal with short-term and long-term stress!

The way that sleep helps regulate stress is by controlling the quantity and timing of hormones being released. If you do not get enough sleep this causes a shift in the release of these hormones leading to high blood pressure. 


“In a study published in the CHEST, researchers found that 50% of chronic insomniacs have a significant risk for hypertension”. 

 

Now We Want To Hear From You!

Which statistic shocked you the most?

Are you surprised by the link between insomnia and high blood pressure? If so, what surprises you the most?

 

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