If you have high blood pressure, you have a simple way to help make your heart feel better:  Sleep a Lot!

Here’s the incredible news from the American Heart Association:

Reduced slow wave sleep (SWS) is a powerful predictor for developing high blood pressure in older men, according to new research in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

SWS, one of the deeper stages of sleep, is characterized by non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) from which it’s difficult to awaken. It’s represented by relatively slow, synchronized brain waves called delta activity on an electroencephalogram. Researchers from the Outcomes of Sleep Disorders in Older Men Study (MrOs Sleep Study) found that people with the lowest level of SWS had an 80 percent increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

Men who spent less than 4 percent of their sleep time in SWS were significantly more likely to develop high blood pressure during the 3.4 years of the study. Men with reduced SWS had generally poorer sleep quality as measured by shorter sleep duration and more awakenings at night and had more severe sleep apnea than men with higher levels of SWS. However, of all measures of sleep quality, decreased SWS was the most strongly associated with the development of high blood pressure. This relationship was observed even after considering other aspects of sleep quality.

In our compressive, modern-day world, we tend to sacrifice sleep for work.  I know I’m guilty of sleeping more five-hour nights than eight-hour nights, but I’m not sure how to manage my crazy workload against the limited lifespan of my beating heart.

Can we ever strike a favorable balance between our physiology and the demands of existing in the early waking hours?  Should our sleep define us, or our deeds?  Are we people of action or a nation of nappers?

I know napping makes us smarter — but are we foolishly favoring our brains over our blood pressure?


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