All You Need to Know About Sleep And High Blood Pressure

Getting good sleep is not a luxury; it is important for promoting good health. Most adults require at least eight hours of sleep a night to allow the body to repair itself and function normally. While a night or two of poor sleep may have little long-term effect, failure to get enough sleep over time may lead to serious health conditions or worsen existing ones.

Adults who get less than seven hours of sleep a night are prone to developing serious health conditions over time, such as depression, heart attack, and stroke. It is important to note that a constant lack of sleep can cause hypertension in people of all ages.

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What is the relationship between a lack of sleep and high blood pressure?

Sleep is your body's way of getting rid of stress hormones known to spike your blood pressure. Without enough rest, these hormones will remain high, causing inflammation. This will lead to the narrowing of your blood vessels, making your blood pressure go up. 

If you already suffer from high blood pressure, experiencing sleep problems may worsen your condition. It is worth noting that you cannot make up for your lack of sleep one night by oversleeping the next.

Just like not having enough sleep, sleeping too much can cause a spike in your blood sugar, which is also a trigger for hypertension and heart disease. Ask your doctor for tips on getting and maintaining good sleep, especially if you already suffer from high blood pressure.

What may cause you to have trouble sleeping?


Stress can lead to sleep loss and high blood pressure. Stress can come from different sources, such as school, work, home, or health problems. It is, therefore, important to check your stress levels regularly.

Undiagnosed sleep disorders

There are many different types of sleep disorders, and many go unnoticed. While some sleep disorders may be caused by stress and may go away on their own, others are a sign of serious underlying health conditions.

It is normal to experience sleep problems from time to time. That said, you should speak to your doctor if you experience regular sleeping problems.

Does your sleeping position affect blood pressure?

If you happen to be one of the millions of Americans dealing with hypertension, chances are that you have already incorporated certain lifestyle changes in an attempt to lower your blood pressure. But are you aware that changing your sleeping position may also lower your blood pressure?

There has been a lot of controversy about the best sleeping positions for people with high blood pressure, and it’s important to know one sleeping position hasn’t been shown to be far better than others. The blood vessels that return blood to the heart are on the right side of the body, so sleeping on this side may compress them and lead to slower circulation. This is why people may be advised to sleep on their left side.

However, it is important to discuss this with your doctor to determine what works best for you.

Pregnant women experiencing pressure-related problems may also be advised to sleep on their left side. This is because the growing baby puts pressure on internal organs, leading to circulation issues. Sleeping on the left side may improve circulation, which could help in preventing hypertension.

In addition, this position can increase the flow of blood and nutrients to your baby through the placenta.

People with sleep apnea should not sleep on their back because this sleeping position may block the airways, spiking blood pressure levels. However, if you have underlying health conditions that make it hard for you to sleep on your left side or face down, you should discuss this with your doctor to weigh up other options.

What should I do if my blood pressure is high at night?

Most people think that their body is in its most relaxed state at night when they are asleep. However, this is not always the case. Some people experience spikes in blood pressure when they sleep. This is a condition known as nocturnal hypertension, and people who experience it are more at risk of cardiac arrest and other forms of heart disease.

It is important to note that anyone can experience nocturnal hypertension, even people whose blood pressure is perfectly normal during the day. If your blood pressure is high during the night, try the following strategies to keep it in check:

  • Take your blood pressure medication before you go to bed. This helps to improve blood pressure during the night and the following day. 

  • Improve your sleeping habits. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.

  • Avoid alcohol or coffee right before bedtime. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure, so it is important to enjoy it in moderation.

  • Exercise earlier in the day, as opposed to very late in the evening.

  • Avoid blue light from your electronic devices right before you sleep.

  • Manage other conditions that may increase your risk of nocturnal hypertension, such as kidney problems and diabetes.

Most importantly, because nocturnal blood pressure is not easy to diagnose, carry out routine blood pressure checks at all times

Can lack of sleep cause high blood pressure?

As mentioned, a prolonged lack of sleep can lead to spikes in blood pressure. Various sleeping issues are likely to lead to increased blood pressure. The most common ones are:

  • Insomnia: This condition makes it difficult to fall and stay asleep and can contribute to high blood pressure.

  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS): There is a correlation between RLS and high blood pressure. Restless leg syndrome is a condition characterized by a person's uncontrollable urge to move their legs. RLS seems to worsen in the evening at bedtime. The condition can cause depression and lead to insomnia, which, in turn, makes the blood pressure levels rise.

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): OSA is a sleeping disorder that causes sudden and repetitive pauses in breathing when sleeping. This condition can cause hypertension if not controlled.

  • Sleep deprivation: This happens when you get less than six hours of sleep per night, and it increases the risk of developing high blood pressure.

While the link between these sleeping issues to hypertension is not completely clear, there is a high probability that not enough sleep or having a sleep disorder like sleep apnea causes spikes in blood pressure levels. 

How else can sleep affect your heart health?

There is a direct correlation between sleep and heart health. When you are deeply asleep, your blood pressure is low. Experiencing sleep problems means that your blood pressure will remain elevated for longer periods. High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease.

Sleep and heart failure

Heart failure happens when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. This means that the body's vital organs do not receive the amount of blood and oxygen they need to function properly.

People who have even modestly reduced sleep (six to seven hours a night) have an increased probability of cardiac arrest. The more poor sleeping habits someone has, the greater their risk of heart failure.

Sleep and heart attacks

Also known as a myocardial infarction, a heart attack happens when blood is blocked from flowing to the heart. Heart attacks are often fatal due to the damage caused when the heart is not sufficiently oxygenated. Improper sleeping patterns increase the chances of heart attacks.

Constant sleep interruptions have also been linked to heart attacks. Since both blood pressure and heart rate spike when someone is woken up, constant sleep disruptions can lead to cardiac stress and trigger a heart attack.

Too much sleep and heart health

While attention has been given to the impact of poor sleep on heart health, other studies¹ have established a link between too much sleep and heart issues. Too much sleep, in this case, is sleeping for more than nine hours.

While more research is needed, most experts believe that certain conditions such as depression and obstructive sleep apnea that lead to too much sleep cause heart issues.

Sleeping tips for people with high blood pressure

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, these strategies can help someone battling hypertension get better sleep:

Use relaxation strategies

If heart concerns make you anxious, they can keep your mind racing just when you want to get to sleep.  To bring yourself to a state of relaxation, you can practice:

  • Deep-breathing techniques

  • Yoga

  • Mindful meditation

  • Light stretching

These relaxation strategies help the body to get rid of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol by slowing your breathing and heart rate.

Create an environment conducive to getting a good night’s sleep

Your sleeping environment could be the main factor that determines whether you have a good night’s sleep or a restless one. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow. Maintain a pleasant room temperature and ensure the room is as dark and quiet as possible.

Exercise regularly

Exercising regularly can help to lower your blood pressure. Exercise is also a great way to relieve stress from your body. You don't have to strain yourself; light exercises such as biking, swimming, brisk walking, and jogging are effective.

Enjoy a balanced diet

Adopting a healthy diet is important in lowering your blood pressure levels. Including specific foods in your diet can significantly reduce your blood pressure levels. Some of the best foods for high blood pressure include, but are not limited to:

  • Salmon

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Beans and lentils

  • Celery

  • Broccoli

  • Carrots

The lowdown

Sleep plays a critical role in our lives. A lack of sufficient sleep may lead to serious health conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart complications. If you are not getting sufficient sleep, it's time to make sleep a priority.

If you find it difficult to fall asleep, speak to your doctor to rule out any underlying health conditions that may be causing your lack of sleep. Then, apply the above-mentioned strategies to get better sleep and prevent high blood pressure.

Remember, there is no silver bullet solution to your sleeping problems. What may work for you may not work for someone else and vice versa. It is, therefore, important to try different strategies to improve your quality of sleep until you find what works for you.

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