Catching up on sleep over the weekend doesn’t normalize heart rate and blood pressure impacted by weekday sleep loss. Restricted sleep hours can deteriorate cardiovascular health. Over the week, participants in the study experienced an increased heart rate and systolic blood pressure that did not return to baseline even after recovery sleep.
The Study’s Background
Researchers from Penn State University recently published a study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine which sought to understand the implications of restricted weekday sleep and the potential recovery from added weekend sleep. With only 65% of U.S. adults achieving the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, understanding the link between sleep deprivation and long-term health issues, particularly cardiovascular disease, is paramount.
- Participants: 15 healthy men, aged 20 to 35.
- Duration: An 11-day inpatient sleep study.
- Sleep Pattern:
1. Baseline Nights (1-3): Participants slept up to 10 hours/night.
2. Restricted Sleep Nights (4-8): Sleep was restricted to five hours/night.
3. Recovery Nights (9-10): Participants were again allowed to sleep up to 10 hours/night.
During the study, participants’ resting heart rates and blood pressure were monitored every two hours throughout the day to provide a comprehensive understanding of cardiovascular health.
Heart rates increased by nearly one BPM (beat per minute) for each consecutive day of restricted sleep. At the study’s outset, the average baseline heart rate stood at 69 BPM. By the second day of the recovery period, it reached nearly 78 BPM.
Systolic blood pressure also showed an increase. Starting from an average baseline of 116 mmHg, it rose to about 119.5 mmHg by the end of the recovery nights.
David Reichenberger, the study’s lead author, highlighted, “Both heart rate and systolic blood pressure did not return to baseline levels by the end of the recovery period.” This indicated that even after recovery sleep, the participants’ cardiovascular systems hadn’t fully recuperated.
Future Research Directions
While the Penn State study provides valuable insights into the immediate effects of sleep deprivation on cardiovascular health, there is a vast realm of untapped research areas. For instance:
- Chronic Sleep Deprivation: The long-term effects of sustained sleep deprivation over months or years.
- Different Age Groups: How sleep deprivation impacts various age groups differently, especially the elderly or children.
- Interplay with Other Health Conditions: The relationship between sleep deprivation and other health issues such as diabetes, mental health disorders, or respiratory conditions.
The Bigger Picture
The study’s co-author, Anne-Marie Chang, an associate professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State, emphasized that the implications of sleep aren’t just restricted to cardiovascular health. Sleep influences numerous facets of our well-being:
- Weight Management: Sleep patterns play a crucial role in weight management.
- Mental Health: Adequate rest contributes positively to mental health.
- Focus and Productivity: Sleep deprivation can impair cognitive functions and focus.
- Relationships: Sleep affects interpersonal skills and the ability to maintain healthy relationships.
Chang added, “Sleep is both a biological and behavioral process. While its impact on our cardiovascular health is significant, it also has broader implications on our overall well-being.”
The findings emphasize the myth surrounding the idea of “catching up” on sleep. While many believe that weekends or days off provide an opportunity to recover from a week of inadequate sleep, this study suggests otherwise.
As the understanding of sleep’s comprehensive impact on health deepens, it is hoped that more individuals prioritize achieving adequate and consistent rest as an integral component of a healthy lifestyle, recognizing the profound influence it has on both physical and mental well-being.