The quality of your sleep influences your health as much as the quantity, and there is one sleep pattern that has a terrible effect on your cardiovascular system.
Sadly, most people who suffer from this are unaware of it.
And most seriously, just one night of this sleep pattern can spike your blood pressure.
Repeated studies have proven that people who suffer from sleep apnea are more likely to have high blood pressure than the rest of the population, but currently little is known about how this occurs.
Professor Glen Foster and his colleagues at the University of British Columbia have now published a study in the American Journal of Physiology that sheds some new light on this link.
They recruited 10 healthy volunteers (not suffering sleep apnea) to sleep in their laboratory during the night. They fitted the volunteers with ventilating masks to control their breathing.
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes your breathing to stop and start throughout the night, so to simulate this, they turned the participants’ oxygen levels up and down while they were sleeping.
The physiological consequences of just one night’s interrupted breathing were astonishing.
It crippled the function of their volunteers’ baroreceptors, which are the body’s sensors that regulate blood pressure.
As a result, just six hours of sleeping with sleep apnea spikes your blood pressure.
The scientists also found that it caused abnormal blood flow patterns in their subjects’ legs, probably because, during the periods of oxygen starvation, their bodies reserved most of the oxygen rich blood for their brains to keep them alive.
These abnormal blood flow patterns can lead to serious cardiovascular problems over time.
If you experience any of the symptoms of sleep apnea, such as waking up tired, loud snoring, or waking up gasping for air, you should go for a sleep test.