Study Finds No Association Between Insomnia and Hypertension

First Posted: Jun 25, 2014 06:40 AM EDT

A team of researchers knock down previous claims that tie symptoms of insomnia to hypertension.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that over a quarter of the U.S. population complains of suffering from sleep problems, and 10 percent of them experience chronic insomnia characterized by difficulty in falling asleep, waking up regularly during the night or unwanted early morning awakenings.

Studies published earlier in the journal Hypertension claimed that lack of good sleep was linked to rise in blood pressure. People who get the least amount of sleep are 80 percent more likely to get high blood pressure. But another study led by researchers from St. Michael's Hospital, offers good news to the 30 percent or more adults who suffer from insomnia. 

The study found that insomnia does not elevate the risk of high blood pressure.  According to Dr. Nicholas Vozoris, a respirologist at St.Michael's Hospital, one of the major concerns among patients as well as health care providers is the medical consequence of insomnia, mainly cardiovascular diseases. This is one of the few studies to examine hypertension among those who report symptoms of insomnia.

According to the researchers, if a relation did exist between the two factors, two major implications for health care system would have existed. Initially, since insomnia is a common problem, majority of the population would need long term screening for the development of high blood pressure. Apart from this, the doctors prescribe sleeping pills often to treat insomnia and lower the risk of hypertension, but sleeping pills are already widely used and are being linked to various side effects.

"Patients who are suffering from insomnia and physicians who are trying to take care of them shouldn't worry so much about insomnia affecting their heart in an adverse way," said Dr. Vozoris. "By showing there is no link between this very common sleep disorder and high blood pressure, physicians can be more selective when prescribing sleeping pills and refrain from prescribing these medications from a cardio-protective perspective."

Studies that earlier highlighted a strong association between insomnia and high blood pressure, had a small base of study subjects.  In this study, the researchers evaluated data retrieved from 13,000 Americans who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. During the survey the participants were asked to report their symptoms of insomnia, and then correlated the responses with whether they were diagnosed with hypertension, or were taking anti-hypertension drugs or had measured high blood pressure.

"After adjusting for many factors, including whether or not participants were receiving blood pressure pills or sleeping pills, there were generally no associations between insomnia and high blood pressure, even among people who were suffering from insomnia the most often," said Dr. Vozoris. "These results should reassure patients and their doctors that insomnia and high blood pressure are unlikely to be linked."

The study was documented in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

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