10 April 2009
People who have chronic (ongoing) insomnia with short sleep duration may have a significantly increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) according to new research (Sleep 2009; 32:491-97).
A US study of 1741 adults found those who had insomnia for longer than a year had a 2.4 times greater risk of hypertension than those with normal sleep. However, the risk was elevated to 5-fold among people with insomnia and an average sleep duration of less than 5 hours.
All people in the study underwent self-reported sleep surveys and polysomnography (sleep studies), and had their average blood pressure measurements recorded. The association between insomnia and high blood pressure remained independent of age, sex, body mass index (BMI), diabetes, smoking, alcohol use, depression and sleep-disordered breathing.
Professor Stephen Harrap, president of the High Blood Pressure Research Council of Australia, said the results clearly linked insomnia and short sleep duration with hypertension risk, but warned that causality could not be established.
Professor Harrap suggested doctors ask patients about their sleep patterns during routine blood pressure checks. ‘If you could fix the sleep problems, it might have a good effect on blood pressure,’ he said.
Dr Craig Phillips (PhD), a research fellow in cardiovascular disease and sleep apnoea at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, said the findings needed confirmation in a randomised trial based on an insomnia treatment intervention.
Last Reviewed: 10 April 2009