Sleep is as vital to your health as food and water. Unfortunately, our modern culture has turned sleep into more of a luxury than a need. In fact, most of us have heard people brag that they only need a few hours of sleep.
Health care professionals recommend that adults get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Though you can get used to life with less sleep, you’re not doing your health any favors by skimping on your nightly slumber. Chronic sleep deprivation puts you at risk of developing serious health problems.
At MS Family Medicine Health Care PC in Rosedale and Garden City, New York, our team, led by board-certified family medicine physician Michele Reed, DO, FAAFP, understands the importance of sleep and how sleep problems can make way for chronic health conditions, such as hypertension.
Here, we want to explain how a lack of sleep can affect your health and blood pressure.
Why sleep is so important
Sleep isn’t as passive an activity as you might think. While you’re resting, your brain is hard at work, storing new information, getting rid of waste, and reorganizing brain cells to get ready for the next day. All of this activity improves your learning power and memory.
Your body is also busy repairing muscle, tissue, and organ damage from the previous day and rebuilding energy stores to get ready for the next day. There’s also an increase in chemicals that your body uses to help strengthen your immune system.
The sleep cycle also plays a role in regulating the production of certain hormones, including:
- Cortisol, which is a stress hormone
- Growth hormone, which supports muscle and bone growth
- Leptin, which is a satiety hormone
- Ghrelin, which is a hunger hormone
These hormones affect metabolism, appetite, and weight control.
Sleep and hypertension
In addition to all the repairing and rebuilding your body does during sleep, this is also a time when your body slows down. This includes your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of your blood vessels.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your blood pressure remains elevated. And, if you sleep less than six hours a night, your blood pressure may go up instead of down. Persistently high blood pressure leads to hypertension, a chronic disease that increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
It’s theorized that a lack of sleep alters the hormone levels that control stress and metabolism. These hormonal changes are what lead to the increase in blood pressure, eventually causing hypertension.
How to fix sleep problems
If you’re having a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting quality sleep, it’s time to make an appointment with MS Family Medicine Health Care PC. We can determine the source of your sleep problem and help you develop a plan to fix it.
Certain sleep problems, such as sleep apnea, require medical intervention. However, there are also things you can do on your own to help improve your sleep. One of them is to develop a good sleep routine. To do this, you should go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
You should also put away all electronics an hour before your bedtime. This is because the bright light from a phone or tablet can affect the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that makes you sleepy. If there’s less melatonin, this may make it harder for you to fall asleep.
Sleep is a need, not a luxury. If you have trouble sleeping, we can develop a plan to help you get the rest you need every night. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with MS Family Medicine Health Care PC today.