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Lack of Sleep Can Lead to High Blood Pressure

The next installment of LIFELINES’ series on high blood pressure and how you can reduce your risk for this condition.

It’s no secret that poor sleep can make you grumpy and foggy. When it happens routinely, it can also increase your risk for high blood pressure.

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), adults need seven to nine hours of shut-eye each night. However, shift work, jobs, family responsibilities, diet and underlying medical conditions keep millions of people, including many Laborers, from getting the right amount of sleep. When this happens routinely, restorative sleep gets short-changed and blood pressure can climb to unhealthy levels.

What is restorative sleep?

Restorative sleep occurs late in slumber – during the last two of sleep’s four stages – and is essential to health. This is when the body repairs itself. Tissue growth and healing take place, energy is restored, immune and nervous systems are bolstered and, key to controlling blood pressure, stress hormones are regulated. When restorative sleep is habitually cut short, the body can lose this ability, increasing the likelihood for high blood pressure and heart disease.

Improve your sleep, improve your health:

  • Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules, even on weekends
  • Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath, reading or listening to soothing music – begin an hour or more before the time you expect to fall asleep
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows
  • Reconsider sleeping arrangement for pets who sleep with you and who disrupt your sleep
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex (put your TV and computer elsewhere)
  • Finish eating at least two to three hours before your regular bedtime
  • Avoid caffeine at least eight hours before bedtime and alcohol products at least two hours before bedtime
  • Exercise regularly
  • Quit smoking

If you continue to have difficulty sleeping or do not feel refreshed when you wake up, talk to your health care provider about being tested for sleep apnea. People who have this condition repeatedly stop and start breathing during sleep and are often unaware this is occurring. Treatments are available that can help you return to healthy sleep and reduce your risk for blood pressure and heart disease.

The LHSFNA has a variety of brochures and Health Alerts pertaining to high blood pressure, heart disease and general wellness. They can be ordered through the Fund’s Publications Catalogue.

Next month, a look at the effect of exercise on blood pressure.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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