Obtaining proper sleep is very important to maintaining health and well being. Sleep deprivation and sleep disturbances have been associated with the development of several medical disorders. Sleep disordered breathing has been associated with the development of hypertension, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and diabetes. We have previously discussed the finding that sleep apnea is associated with increased risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and dementia. In addition, we have discussed that even mild obstructive sleep apnea increases the occurrence of heart arrhythmias. These alterations are thought to occur through the influence of sleep on metabolism and neurohormonal systems, particularly the sympathetic nervous system. Researchers, lead by Dr. Maple Fung, have recently found that decreased slow wave sleep increases the risk of developing hypertension in older men. The results of their study were published online ahead of print in the journal Hypertension. The researchers sought to determine whether sleep disordered breathing, sleep duration, or sleep architecture was associated with the development of hypertension. The researchers used data from an earlier prospective study of 784 men aged greater than 65 years from the Outcomes of Sleep Disorders in Older Men Study. The men did not have hypertension at the time of enrollment into the study when they had baseline polysomnography performed. After 3.4 years of follow up, 243 men developed incident hypertension. After adjusting for age, nonwhite race, study site, and body mass index, the researchers found that slow wave sleep was associated with incident hypertension. The researchers found that the percentage of time spent in slow wave sleep was inversely associated with incident hypertension. The researchers wrote, “This prospective study suggests that older community dwelling men with a lower percentage of sleep time in [slow wave sleep] have an increased risk of incident [hypertension]. In contrast, indices of breathing disturbances, level of hypoxemia, sleep duration, and arousal index were not independently associated with an increased risk of [hypertension] after considering confounders. This article adds to the growing body of literature that associates sleep architecture with metabolic and physiological changes that may reflect altered neurohormones and inflammatory markers”. Previous studies have focused on the influence of sleep disordered breathing on the occurrence of hypertension. This is the first study to focus on the influence of sleep architecture, particularly slow wave sleep, and the development of hypertension. Future studies will focus on elucidating the mechanism whereby decreases slow wave sleep increases the risk of developing hypertension.
Maple M. Fung el al. “Decreased Slow Wave Sleep Increases Risk of Developing Hypertension in Elderly Men” Hypertension published online ahead of print August 29, 2011 doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.111.174409