Getting enough sleep helps keep your mind and body healthy, and could be important for your blood pressure too.
Does your blood pressure change while you sleep?
When you’re asleep your blood pressure is generally lower than while you’re awake. This is totally normal and is known as nocturnal dipping. The drop in both your systolic (the top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure can be up to 20% lower than your readings in the day time.
People who don’t have lower blood pressure while they sleep have been shown to be at higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
How can lack of sleep affect your health?
A night of bad sleep can affect your mood and concentration the next day, but it won’t affect your overall health. But a regular lack of sleep can have a bigger effect. In the long run, you’re more likely to become overweight or obese and develop problems including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
How can lack of sleep affect your blood pressure?
Many studies have shown people who have trouble sleeping are more likely to have high blood pressure. Sleeping less than five hours a night, insomnia and interrupted sleep all appear to raise blood pressure. This effect seems to be stronger in women than in men, and during middle-age.
How can shift work affect your blood pressure?
Shift work can be very disruptive to your sleep patterns and how much sleep you get. There is research linking shift work to health problems including being overweight, high cholesterol and diabetes, and it could raise your blood pressure too.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)?
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a condition which interrupts sleep because it causes difficulty breathing.
With OSA, the walls of the throat relax during sleep, blocking your airways so you can’t breathe for a short period of time. The lack of oxygen wakes you up or brings you into a lighter sleep so that your airways can open up and your breathing can return to normal. These episodes can happen throughout the night, affecting your sleep.
People with OSA are more likely to develop high blood pressure – it’s estimated that half of people with OSA have high blood pressure. It also means you’re more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, atrial fibrillation, a stroke or a heart attack.
What causes OSA?
OSA is most common in people who are very overweight as this can put a strain on the throat muscles. It’s more common in men than women and tends to affect people over 40. Your lifestyle, any medicines you’re taking and your genes can all play a role too.
The signs and symptoms of OSA can include snoring and laboured breathing, as well as interrupted breathing and gasping for breath. You might not know you have it – it’s often noticed by a partner. Visit your GP if you think you might have OSA as it can be treated.
Find out more from NHS Choices.
How can you get enough sleep?
Most people need about eight hours of sleep a night, but everybody’s different. Lack of sleep can be caused by problems such as sleep apnoea, but it’s usually due to unhelpful sleeping habits and routines.
There is lots of advice available to help you get enough sleep, for example, figuring out how much sleep you need and working out a regular routine and sticking to it. Winding down before bed can help, for example with a warm bath or writing down anything that’s on your mind so you can deal with it the next day.