Picture this. You go to see your doctor and he tells you have borderline high blood pressure. He says if you don’t do something about it you’re at risk for a hypertension diagnosis.
But when he hands you your prescription instead of the latest high blood pressure drug du jour, it reads, “Get more quality, deep sleep.”
Sounds strange, but it turns out that if you’re serious about ridding yourself of the risk of developing full-blown high blood pressure, that prescription really may be the best one your doctor could possibly write.
A good night’s sleep is good for whatever ails you
I’ve written many times about the importance of sleep to good health. Countless studies show that our modern lifestyle, which encourages us to burn the candle at both ends, is quite literally making us sick. In fact, a lack of good-quality sleep has already been tied to heart disease, obesity, depression, diabetes and even premature death.
We already know from prior research that a 45-to 60- minute nap can help control blood-pressure spikes. But researchers from the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s hospital and Harvard Medical School have also concluded that folks who get the least amount of the deep sleep known as slow-wave sleep (SWS), are at the highest risk for developing high blood pressure.
The researchers studied the sleep patterns of 784 healthy and non-hypertensive men in their own homes for more than three years.
They kept track of a variety of factors, including REM and non-REM sleep, sleep apnea, sleep duration and sleep disturbances.
Lack of deep sleep sent hypertension skyrocketing
The researchers found that the men who spent less than 4 percent of their sleep time in SWS were at an astounding 83 percent increased risk for developing hypertension, when compared with men who spent at least 17 percent of their sleep time in SWS.
Now, of course, more research has to be done before a direct link can be drawn between a lack of quality sleep and high blood pressure, but the evidence is beginning to pile up, and it’s all pointing in that direction.
But there is some good news here. This is something we CAN do something about.
Fix your sleep problems to fix your high blood pressure
To start, try cutting off your laptop, smartphone or tablet reading one to two hours before heading to bed. The artificial light from these devices can throw your circadian rhythms out of whack, reducing the amount of melatonin your body produces. And that can knock you clear out of the deep sleep zone.
Try a non-backlit e-book reader like the Kindle or Nook or a good “old-fashioned” book for bedtime reading instead.
Since even dim light can interfere with your sleep patterns, eliminate any sources of light in the bedroom from electronics or from adjacent rooms.
In addition, deep breathing, meditation and nighttime rituals like a cup of herbal tea can all help with preparing you for a good night’s sleep.
And, finally, if you’re still feeling like you need some extra help reaching deep sleep, look for a supplement with one or a combination of proven natural sleep aids such as:
Here’s to better slumber AND better blood pressure too!