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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sleep 6 Just Hours? Scary Side Effect

Women who regularly sleep six hours or less a night appear to have a far higher risk of developing high blood pressure than those who get longer periods of shuteye, according to a new study from Warwick Medical School in Coventry, England, reports Reuters Health.

The study: The team of British researchers followed 10,300 adults between the ages of 35 and 55 for five years. All had normal blood pressure at the beginning of the study between 1997 and 1999. They were then reassessed between 2003 and 2005. Twenty percent of the study participants were newly diagnosed with high blood pressure.

The results: Women who routinely slept six hours or less were 42 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure, while those who routinely slept no more than 5 hours had a 31 percent higher risk. While other risk factors, such as smoking, being overweight or having a sedentary lifestyle, did partially contribute to it, an independent link between sleep and blood pressure still remained.

Here's the oddest part: The findings only applied to women. There was no correlation between sleep and blood pressure for men, leading study leader Dr. Francesco P. Cappuccio to theorize there is a "gender-specific" relationship between sleep deprivation and high blood pressure. Previous research has linked poor sleep quality, specifically sleep disturbances caused by sleep apnea, to higher blood pressure, but it now appears that just a reduced amount of sleep even without a sleep disorder can take a significant health toll.

How can lack of sleep lead to high blood pressure? The researchers speculate that sleep deprivation keeps the nervous system in a state of hyperactivity, which in turn affects systems throughout the body, including the heart and blood vessels, reports Reuters.

The study findings were published in the journal Hypertension.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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