London: People who were showing the early signs of high blood pressure were able to restore readings to healthy levels in just six weeks if they had an extra hour in bed every night, a new study found.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is thought to be responsible for half of all heart attacks and strokes, and lack of sleep and a stressful lifestyle have long been associated with an increased risk of the condition.
But the new study, carried out at Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA, is one of the first to prove that blood pressure can be brought under control by simply increasing sleep duration, the Daily Mail reported.
Researchers recruited 22 middle aged men and women who either had prehypertension, where their readings were not excessively high but had been increasing and were on target to reach dangerous levels.
The volunteers all claimed to sleep seven hours or less a night.
Over a six-week period, 13 of the group were told to extend their sleeping patterns by getting to bed an hour earlier than they normally would while the rest were told to stick to their normal sleeping routines.
The results, published in the Journal of Sleep Research, showed that the extended sleep group managed to get at least 35 minutes extra in bed.
As a result, their average blood pressure readings dropped sharply by between eight and 14mmHg.
It’s thought too little sleep affects the body’s ability to deal with stress hormones that can drive up blood pressure.
The researchers noted that extra sleep could soon be prescribed as a remedy for high blood pressure.
“These preliminary findings have to be interpreted with caution. But future investigations should look at whether increasing sleep duration serves as an effective strategy in the treatment of hypertension,” they said.