A Guide To Sleep Aids If You Have High Blood Pressure

In the United States, nearly half of all adults are reported to have high blood pressure. Lack of adequate sleep can negatively impact blood pressure in people living with hypertension. Studies¹ reveal that the less sleep you get, the higher your blood pressure may become.

Read on for an overview of how lack of sleep can impact hypertension and the best aids you can use for sleepand lowering your blood pressure. 

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How does lack of sleep impact blood pressure?

If you sleep six hours or less,² you are at a higher risk of increased blood pressure. Essentially, if you already have hypertension, sleep deprivation may make your blood pressure worse. Sleep helps your body to regulate the hormones needed to control stress and metabolism. In time, lack of sleep may cause swings in hormones, leading to increased blood pressure. 

However, sleeping too much can also increase your risk of high blood pressure. You should get the recommended amount of sleep, seven to nine hours, each night to avoid hypertension and related health issues.

A guide to sleep aids: your options

Good quality sleep often comes with ideal sleep practices and habits you cultivate over time. However, if you need extra help to get adequate sleep, try the following sleep aid options after consulting your health care team:

The natural sleep aids

Melatonin supplements

Melatonin is a sleep hormone that your body produces naturally, signaling the brain that it is time to go to bed. Melatonin levels in your body tend to increase naturally in the evening and become lower in the morning. Using melatonin supplements can help you get adequate sleep, especially in instances when the natural melatonin cycle has been disrupted due to a change in work shift, jet lag, etc.

Valerian root

Valerian root is an herb extracted from the valerian plant that grows in Europe, North America, and Asia. Some researchers believe valerian root increases a chemical in the brain that has a calming effect. Short-term intake of valerian root is safe for adults. However, the root is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women or those taking medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs.

Magnesium

Increasing magnesium intake by taking supplements can help you get quality and adequate sleep. Magnesium is a mineral that helps quiet your mind and body to make it easier to fall asleep, potentially due to its ability to regulate the production of melatonin. Magnesium also increases the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is a brain messenger with calming effects.

Lavender plant

The fragrance of lavender can help enhance sleep in people with insomnia. When you simply smell lavender oil shortly before going to bed, you can experience improved sleep quality. Although lavender therapy is generally safe, oral intake of supplements can lead to nausea and stomach pain in some people. Ideally, essential lavender oil is intended for aromatherapy and not oral ingestion.

Over-the-counter sleep aids

The following are some common over-the-counter sleep aids:

Diphenhydramine:

Diphenhydramine is known as a sedating antihistamine that is more likely to make you fall asleep than others. Although it effectively induces sleep, diphenhydramine has several undesirable side effects and is only safe to be used as a sleep aid in the short term. 

Doxylamine succinate:

Doxylamine is an over-the-counter medication popularly used as a nighttime sleep aid to treat insomnia. It is a sedating antihistamine that can help you get adequate sleep. Doxylamine is available under the Unisom brand. Side effects of Doxylamine include dry mouth, blurred vision, dizziness, decreased sweating, and difficulty urinating.

Cyclizine:

Cyclizine is a type of drowsy (sedating) antihistamine. You can take the medication as needed.

It is essential to consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication, including sleep aids. 

Prescription sleep medications

There are various types of prescription sleeping pills, generally described as sedative-hypnotics. These medications work on brain receptors to slow down the nervous system. Some help induce sleep, while others are used for staying asleep for extended periods.

Examples of common prescription sleep medication include:

  • Benzodiazepines sedative-hypnotic sleeping pills such as flurazepam (Dalmane), estazolam (brand name ProSom), and quazepam (Doral)

  •  Non-benzodiazepines sedative-hypnotic sleeping pills such as zaleplon (Sonata), zolpidem (Ambien), and eszopiclone (Lunesta)

  • Melatonin receptor agonist hypnotic sleeping pills such as Ramelteon (Rozerem)

What's the best drug-free option for insomnia?

Research³ shows that changing your lifestyle and sleep habits is the best way to overcome insomnia. Even when you are using sleeping pills or medication as a temporary solution, experts advise that you make changes to your daily routines and bedtime behaviors as a long-term remedy for sleep problems.

The following are some behavioral and environmental changes that can positively impact sleep rather than medication.

Relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques can relieve stress and help you get better sleep. Some effective techniques include simple meditation practices, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, Tai Chi, and the use of deep breathing. With some practice, these skills can help you unwind at bedtime and improve your sleep even more effectively than sleeping aids. 

Exercise

When you exercise, you usually experience a rise in temperature followed by a significant drop. The drop in temperature makes it easier for you to stay asleep. Aerobic exercise also increases the amount of oxygen in your blood that reaches your muscles, helping to combat insomnia. Notably, the best time to exercise is late afternoon or early evening and not right before bed. Aim at getting at least 30 minutes of exercise four times a week. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a kind of psychotherapy that treats mental problems by changing negative thoughts, emotions, and behavior patterns. CBT can help relax your mind, modify your outlook, and improve your daytime habits. All this will set you up for a good night's sleep eventually.

Choose a comfortable mattress

If you feel groggy or experience pain every time you wake up, it may be time to upgrade your mattress. Mattresses typically become less comfortable as they age and can worsen insomnia. Choose the right mattress that suits your sleeping style to ensure you are as comfortable as possible when sleeping. Less tossing and turning at night translates into more restful sleep.

Practice healthy sleep habits

Apart from changing your mattress, you should also practice healthy sleep habits. The following are some recommended routines to adopt before sleeping:

  • Eat a light dinner earlier in the day. This allows your body enough time to digest food so you avoid potentially uncomfortable heartburn when you lie down to go to sleep.

  • Take some time away from your screens or devices an hour before bed. You can relax with a book, a warm shower, breathing techniques, or yoga. When you make this your bedtime ritual, your brain will be trained to know it is time for sleep.

  • When you are in bed, focus on sleeping and avoid binge-watching TV or scrolling through social media.

Tips for choosing and using the right sleep aid if you have high blood pressure

Before you use any sleep aids, take the following steps:

Seek advice from your doctor:

Ask your doctor whether a sleep aid may interact adversely with other medications that you are using to manage hypertension. You should also ask about the best medication and dosage to take. 

Research side effects:

When using over-the-counter sleep aids, it is crucial that you research the side effects of each drug. For example, diphenhydramine and doxylamine are not ideal for some people with underlying conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sleep apnea, severe liver disease, digestive system obstruction, or urinary retention.

Carefully read the package:

You should carefully read the package insert that comes with any medication. Observe potential side effects and drug interactions closely. There are several common medications, such as antidepressants and antibiotics, that could cause dangerous interactions with both over-the-counter and prescription pills. Also, with some sleeping pills, you must avoid certain foods such as grapefruit and grapefruit juice.

Consider other medical conditions:

Talk with your doctor about other medical conditions you have before using any sleeping aid. Some sleep medications could have severe side effects for people with medical problems such as depression, breathing difficulties, liver problems, and hypertension.

Take sleep aids one day at a time:

Over-the-counter sleep medications are intended to be a temporary solution for insomnia. Most sleep aids are not intended to be used for long periods. 

Avoid alcohol:

Do not mix alcohol and over-the-counter sleep aids. Alcohol is known to increase the sedative effects of the medication. Alcohol doesn't only disrupt sleep quality but also heightens the sedative effects of sleeping pills. This combination can be deadly.

Start with the lowest recommended dose:

Testing the lowest recommended dose gives you a chance to evaluate how the medication affects you and any side effects you may experience. This helps you adjust your dose accordingly or change the medication.

Avoid frequent use:

Try to use sleeping aids for emergencies rather than nightly use. This helps you avoid dependency while minimizing adverse side effects. 

Don't operate machinery:

Never operate machinery or drive a car after taking sleeping aids. This is especially important when you are taking a new sleep aid because you may not know how it will affect you.

Are sleeping pills bad for high blood pressure?

Using sleeping pills regularly could affect high blood pressure. A Geriatrics & Gerontology International study⁴ of older adults with hypertension revealed that using sleeping pills regularly could lead to an increased need for blood pressure medications over time.

Can you take a sleep aid with blood pressure medication?

Yes, you can take a sleep aid with blood pressure medication. However, this doesn't apply to all types of sleeping aids out there. Some sleeping aids can react adversely with blood pressure medication to worsen your condition. Before you take any sleeping aid, seek advice from your doctor.

Can you take melatonin if you have high blood pressure?

You should not take melatonin if you are taking specific drugs used to treat depression, anxiety, or high blood pressure. You should also not use melatonin if you are taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, blood thinners, or antipsychotics.

Can ZzzQuil raise your blood pressure?

ZzzQuil is an over-the-counter nighttime sleep aid. Taking too much of the drug can cause side effects, including lowering your blood pressure to alarming levels.

The lowdown

Studies¹ reveal that improving sleep can reduce high blood pressure in addition to the risks of other cardiovascular diseases. Some sleep aids, such as over-the-counter or prescription medications, can be used in the short term to help overcome insomnia and other sleep issues.

Though these medications may assist with better sleep, they also have side effects that create other health complications. Therefore, changing your lifestyle routines and sleep habits is the best way to treat insomnia, maintain healthy blood pressure, and improve overall well-being.

Finally, before taking any sleeping aid, consult with your doctor first whether or not you have hypertension. This is essential for avoiding harmful side effects and/or dangerous interactions with other medications.

Have you considered clinical trials for High blood pressure?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for High blood pressure, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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