Is it true that sleep deprivation can cause high blood pressure?

Answer From Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D.

Possibly. It’s thought that sleeping fewer than six hours a night could be linked to increased blood pressure.

People who sleep five hours or less a night may be at higher risk of developing high blood pressure or worsening already high blood pressure. There’s also an increased risk of high blood pressure for people who sleep between five and six hours a night.

It’s thought that sleep helps your blood regulate stress hormones and helps your nervous system remain healthy. Over time, a lack of sleep could hurt your body’s ability to regulate stress hormones, leading to high blood pressure.

Sleeping seven to eight hours a night may play a role in the treatment and prevention of high blood pressure. Talk to your doctor for tips on getting better sleep, especially if you have high blood pressure.

One possible, treatable cause of your lack of sleep contributing to high blood pressure is obstructive sleep apnea — a sleep disorder in which you repeatedly stop and start breathing during sleep. Talk with your doctor if you feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, especially if you snore. Obstructive sleep apnea may be the cause, and it can increase your risk of high blood pressure, as well as heart problems and other health issues.

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  1. Cirelli C, et al. Definition and consequences of sleep deprivation. Accessed March 24, 2015.
  2. Levy P, et al. Sleep deprivation, sleep apnea and cardiovascular diseases. Frontiers in Bioscience. 2012;4:2007.
  3. Calhoun DA, et al. Sleep and hypertension. Chest. 2010;138:434.
  4. What is sleep apnea? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed March 24, 2015.
  5. Pepin JL, et al. Hypertension and sleep: Overview of a tight relationship. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2014;18:509.
  6. Palagini L, et al. Sleep loss and hypertension: A systematic review. Current Pharmaceutical Design. 2013;19:2409.
  7. Litin SC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 6, 2015.

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