Mild sleep problems may cause elevated blood pressure in women, study finds

NEW YORK — Previous research has indicated that chronic sleep deprivation can cause cardiovascular problems, but a new study shows that, for women, even less worrisome sleeping issues may lead to higher blood pressure.

Researchers from the Columbia University Irving Medical CenterTrouble say that milder problems such as falling asleep and staying asleep have been classified in the past as mild sleep problems, but new research indicates these issues should be taken more seriously.

About a third of adults don’t get enough sleep, and women have a greater risk of sleep issues. Some studies have suggested that women are twice as likely to suffer from chronic insomnia than men.

“That’s concerning, since studies have shown that sleep deprivation and milder sleep problems may have a disproportionate effect on cardiovascular health in women,” says Brooke Aggarwal, the study’s lead author and a behavioral scientist in the Department of Medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, in a statement.

The study analyzed the blood pressure and sleep habits of 323 healthy women. Sleep disturbances such as poor sleep quality, difficulty falling asleep, and insomnia, were far more common than more severe sleep disturbances like obstructive sleep apnea.

“Our findings suggest that mild sleep problems could possibly initiate the vascular endothelial inflammation that’s a significant contributor to cardiovascular disease,” says Aggarwal. “Results of an ongoing clinical trial may confirm these results. In the meantime, it may be prudent to screen women for milder sleep disturbances in an effort to help prevent cardiovascular disease.”

Those who had mild sleep problems, even those who slept for seven to nine hours a night, recorded by a wristwatch device, were much more likely to have elevated blood pressure.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.