Health Information continued...
You’re 8 Hours Away From Lower Blood Pressure
Part 2 of a Series
by Jennifer Mackenzie
You can’t just sleep away your problems, right? The answer is: sometimes you can. If the problem is high blood pressure, sleep is one of nature’s best remedies.
“When you’re sleeping, your body is repairing and restoring itself,” says Dr. Sequia Holland-Ellis. “Elevated blood pressure is a response to various stresses on the body; if you’re well-rested, the body is under less stress, and blood pressure will reflect that.”
Typically, your blood pressure is lower throughout the night. But when you don't get enough sleep, your sympathetic nervous system revs up, raising your blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol not only causes temporary spikes in blood pressure (as well as causing your heart rate to jump and digestion to slow) but can make your blood pressure inch up permanently over time.
Why? Because long-term elevated cortisol levels increase inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation causes your arteries to narrow and constrict, which results in higher blood pressure.
So how much sleep is enough? “A full 8 hours,” emphasizes Dr. Holland-Ellis –and not from the time you turn out the lights, but from the time you are actually sleeping. “Start unplugging a full hour before you want to be asleep,” she advises. “Turn of your phone, your TV, your computer – all those things can wait, but sleep can’t! We know that the light from the phone, laptop or TV will inhibit melatonin secretion, and melatonin is the hormone needed for restful sleep.”
Almost everyone experiences a restless or sleepless night from time to time, or stays up late on occasion. But like all lifestyle changes, the key is consistency. Get to sleep by 10p.m. most every night, and sleep 8 hours. If you need to get up earlier than 6a.m., go to bed earlier than 10p.m. Because for every single hour of sleep you lose (under the optimal 8 hours) your risk of high blood pressure goes up by 37%, according to a well-known study of middle-aged adults.
“Even with the best sleep hygiene, if you still have trouble falling asleep, I recommend that my patients start with natural remedies. For example, sometimes I suggest diffusing essential oils, like lavender, in the bedroom.” Another way to help readjust your inner clock is to take melatonin, a naturally occurring substance that promotes deep sleep.
In our next segment, we’ll talk about another easy lifestyle change you can make to lower stress and help reduce blood pressure – it’s right under your nose!