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No link between insomnia and hypertension, study finds

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A new analysis finds no link between insomnia and hypertension, despite previously held beliefs that the two conditions are related to one another.

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Dr. Nicholas Vozoris, a respirologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, examined data from nearly 13,000 Americans who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. He found no link between insomnia and high blood pressure.

Insomnia symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to fall back asleep and waking up earlier in the morning than intended.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 50 to 70 million American adults have a sleep or wakefulness disorder.

Vozoris chose to study this link after noting that many of his patients were concerned that their insomnia may be contributing to other health problems.

“In my contact with patients, I see a lot who suffer from insomnia have concerns of whether the sleep difficulties, besides impairing quality of life, will have some long-term negative impact on their cardiovascular system,” he told FoxNews.com. “It’s fair to say it’s also a concern in the general medical community among general medical practitioners, whether insomnia symptoms may lead to poor cardiovascular health.”

Past research has shown a link between obstructed sleep apnea and negative cardiovascular outcomes, which may have led some to question as to whether other sleep disorders, like insomnia, may also be connected to heart problems. However, obstructed sleep apnea and insomnia are entirely different issues, Vozoris pointed out.

While there have been studies that show that people with insomnia have higher levels of stress hormones in their blood stream, which could potentially raise blood pressure, Vozoris noted that these previous studies have had inconsistent results. Other past research that showed positive links between insomnia and high blood pressure used smaller, selective groups of patients and only observed subjective measures of hypertension, such as whether a patient was on blood pressure medications.

For his analysis, Vozoris looked at both subjective and objective measures, including systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

The analysis also examined whether a link existed between frequent insomnia and high blood pressure and found a negative relationship.

“The fact that even people with more severe insomnia didn’t show a link, that finding provides impressive proof that there’s probably no real link between the two items,” Vozoris said.

The findings should be a reassurance for people who suffer from insomnia.

“People who struggle with insomnia are already struggling and suffering… to not have on their mind, on top of that the, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to have a stroke or high blood pressure attack in the middle of the night,’ that’s actually really important,” Vozoris said.

Vozoris noted that, in the past, some physicians may have prescribed sleeping pills to patients with insomnia, over concerns that the sleep disorder could cause cardiovascular problems. However, he hopes this new research will change that practice.

“The take home messages for me are the results of this research provides reassurance for patients and their doctors that there likely is no link between insomnia and hypertension, and especially for patients to not have that worry on their mind,” Vozoris said.