Sleep is an essential aspect of our health, but its significance extends beyond merely feeling rested. A recent study published in the academic journal Sleep has shed light on the intricate relationship between sleep regularity, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and hypertension (Sansom et al., 2024).

The study involved a population of 602 middle-aged adults, with an average age of nearly 57 years. The majority of the participants were Caucasian, making up 92% of the cohort. The researchers aimed to explore the associations between sleep patterns, specifically sleep regularity, OSA, and the prevalence of hypertension.
 


 

The importance of quality sleep and its correlation with heart health cannot be overstated. By utilizing the Sleep Regularity Index (SRI), researchers were able to categorize study participants into groups based on their sleep patterns: regular sleepers, mildly irregular sleepers, and severely irregular sleepers. The SRI calculates the likelihood of being asleep or awake at two distinct time points 24 hours apart, providing a quantifiable measure of sleep regularity (Phillips et al., 2017).

Numerous studies have shown that regular, quality sleep can have profound benefits for heart health. Regular sleep patterns aid the body in maintaining healthy levels of stress hormones and inflammation markers, both of which are linked to heart disease. Irregular sleepers, particularly those categorized as severely irregular, may face higher risks of cardiovascular issues (Meier-Ewert et al., 2004)
 


 

As for this study, the key findings revealed:

 

  1. Both mildly irregular sleep and severely irregular sleep were associated with higher odds of OSA compared to regular sleep.
  2. Participants with both OSA and severely irregular sleep had the highest odds of hypertension. In contrast, those with OSA and regular or mildly irregular sleep did not have an increased risk.
  3. There was a significant interaction between severely irregular sleep and OSA on prevalent hypertension, suggesting that sleep regularity may modify the association between OSA and hypertension.

 

 

These findings imply that sleep irregularity may be a consequence of OSA-related sleep disruption and may contribute to an increased risk of hypertension. This suggests the importance of assessing sleep regularity in individuals with OSA and indicates potential benefits from sleep-behavioral interventions to improve health outcomes.

In conclusion, this study offers valuable insights into the interrelationships between sleep regularity, OSA, and hypertension in a middle-aged community population. It underscores the need for further research to confirm these associations and explore the underlying mechanisms. Regular assessment of sleep patterns may have implications for managing and preventing hypertension in individuals with OSA.

 

References:
Sansom, K., Reynolds, A., Windred, D., Phillips, A., Dhaliwal, S. S., Walsh, J., Maddison, K., Singh, B., Eastwood, P., & McArdle, N. (2024). The interrelationships between sleep regularity, obstructive sleep apnea, and hypertension in a middle-aged community population. Sleep. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsae001

Phillips, A.J.K., Clerx, W.M., O'Brien, C.S., Sano, A., Barger, L.K., Picard, R.W., Lockley, S.W., Klerman, E.B., & Czeisler, C.A. (2017). Irregular sleep/wake patterns are associated with poorer academic performance and delayed circadian and sleep/wake timing. Scientific Reports, 7, 3216.

Meier-Ewert, H.K., Ridker, P.M., Rifai, N., Regan, M.M., Price, N.J., Dinges, D.F., & Mullington, J.M. (2004). Effect of sleep loss on C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker of cardiovascular risk. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 43(4), 678-683.

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