The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than one in three Americans gets less than seven hours of sleep each night. Almost half of the adults in the United States have high blood pressure. The association between the two has been established for quite some time.

Our expert providers at Maryland Cardiology Associates in Greenbelt, Maryland, discuss lifestyle factors with all of our hypertension patients. Most of them expect to hear advice regarding nutrition, exercise, and medication, but many are surprised when we discuss sleep schedules.

How much sleep you should get

Adults need a minimum of seven hours of sleep each day and a maximum of nine hours. Getting less, or more, now and then is unlikely to harm your health, but consistently getting too little or too much sleep can lead to some serious health problems, high blood pressure among them.

Whether you need seven hours or nine, or somewhere in between depends on your individual biology. Just as 98.6 is an average body temperature, and some people consistently have a temperature of 97 degrees while others are usually 99 degrees, the proper amount of sleep varies.

Consistency is important

Recent research suggests that going to bed and getting up at about the same time each day is more important than previously thought.

In a study spanning nine months and involving the sleep schedules and blood pressure readings of more than 12,000 adults around the world, researchers found that varying the time participants went to bed and got up by 90 minutes or more resulted in far higher odds — 92% — of developing high blood pressure!

Even a smaller variation of 30 minutes led to a more than 30% higher likelihood of high blood pressure. These findings suggest that it’s important for you to get enough sleep and that it should occur at about the same time each day. For those who like to stay up later and sleep later on the weekends, this could be bad news.

Improving your sleep

Like reducing stress, getting better sleep can be a complicated lifestyle habit to develop and keep. Here are a few tips that may help:

Set the stage

Develop a bedtime routine. It may include a warm bath, limiting screen time for an hour or so before bed, having a cup of herbal tea, or reading for a few minutes. Setting up a routine helps signal your body that it’s time to sleep.

Make it inviting

Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex. Keep it dark and cool. Get bedding that’s inviting and comfortable. In short, make the area where you sleep pleasant and welcoming, so you’ll want to sleep there.

Exercise earlier in the day

Getting enough exercise is often an important part of improving your sleep, but you should make sure you exercise at least four hours before you go to bed.

Expose yourself to natural light

Being exposed to natural light, especially in the morning or early afternoon, can foster better sleep. A full-spectrum lamp can help if you don’t have the opportunity to be outside.

Be careful with food and drink

It’s best to avoid eating or drinking for a few hours before going to bed. Alcohol is well-known to disrupt sleep — a drink may help you fall asleep, but you may awaken in the middle of the night and struggle to go back to sleep.

Find out more

If you have additional questions about the link between sleep and blood pressure, schedule an appointment at Maryland Cardiology Associates today. Call our office or book a visit online. We’re always happy to discuss your specific situation and help you find a routine that supports your cardiovascular health.

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