Harvard Heart Letter

Trouble falling asleep linked to high blood pressure

High blood pressure is one of the many health risks associated with not getting enough sleep, which is often caused by insomnia, or difficulty falling or staying asleep. Although often considered a nighttime problem, some people with insomnia may be in a state of "hyperarousal" that also makes it hard for them to nod off during the day. Now, new research suggests that people with chronic insomnia who also have trouble napping face a higher risk of high blood pressure.

The study, in the March 2015 issue of Hypertension, included more than 200 people with chronic insomnia (defined as insomnia that lasts more than six months) and almost 100 normal sleepers. All underwent daytime nap tests, which measures how quickly a person falls asleep in a quiet environment during the day. People with chronic insomnia who took longer than 14 minutes to fall asleep during the nap studies had three times the risk of high blood pressure compared with normal sleepers, the researchers found. Treatments such as medications and biofeedback to help dampen hyperarousal may be best for people with this type of insomnia, they suggest, although more research is needed.