In my recent book Real Cause, Real Cure (Rodale), I point out that lack of sleep can cause, or complicate, many different health problems, many of which you'd be surprised to find out are associated with poor sleep. These include heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Now scientists are linking a lack of deep sleep — the most restorative kind of sleep — to high blood pressure.
Researchers from the University of California at San Diego conducted a 40-month study of 784 men, with a "mean" age of 75. (No, they weren't grumpy old men. For those of you who might not know, the word mean means that half the men in the study were older than 75 and half were younger than 75.)
At the beginning of the study, none of the men had high blood pressure. At the end of the study, the men who had logged the least amount of deep sleep — this is the non-dreaming stage of sleep, where brain waves are slow and particularly restorative to mind and body — had a 19% higher risk of developing high blood pressure.
Nobody knows exactly why deep sleep is deeply healthy. But the researchers theorize that a lack of it causes the same type of chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalances linked to an increase risk of heart disease and stroke.
"Decreased slow wave sleep increases risk of developing hypertension in elderly men," Fung M, et al, Hypertension 2011; DOI: 10.1161/hypertensionaha.111.174409.
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of four research studies on their treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.