Does Blood Pressure Affect Sleep?
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As a woman going through menopause, you will experience a wave of changes to your body that will directly impact your health. These changes can range from hot flashes to mood swings and more. One of the most common and often underlooked changes is heightened blood pressure. While this may not seem like a significant issue, changes in blood pressure can have an impact on weight gain, stress, and sleep deprivation.
How does menopause cause high blood pressure?
Menopause isn't a direct cause of high blood pressure, but it is a contributing factor in the process. Menopause decreases hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, within the body that can affect metabolism and weight gain. As women go through and exit menopause, they may find that rather than maintaining a healthy weight, they gain weight much faster even if they have the same diet. Due to this hormonal decrease, the body rapidly gains weight and causes high blood pressure.
How does high blood pressure affect insomnia?
Women with insomnia have a greater chance of dealing with high blood pressure. In fact, women who get 6 hours of sleep or less are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular health issues during menopause/postmenopause. Restlessness and anxiety increase adrenaline in the brain, which then increases heart rate and blood pressure. As a result, both of these conditions can worsen the other, making sleeping an obstacle for many women going through menopause.
How can you decrease blood pressure and insomnia?
The correlation between high blood pressure and insomnia is not always clear, making it one of the more difficult subjects to research. The links between these two conditions can vary from woman to woman, but they share some similar attributes as to how they affect the brain and the nervous system.
High levels of adrenaline can influence both higher blood pressure and insomnia. When adrenaline rises, it increases blood flow to the brain and muscles. The nervous system becomes stimulated, and the receptors in the brain that house attentiveness becomes active. The rise of blood flow to the brain and body naturally increases blood pressure. The rise of brain activity and blood pressure causes women to feel restless and fuels insomnia.
The relationship between high blood pressure and hot flashes is still relatively uncertain. However, high blood pressure during insomnia is often coupled with hot flashes and night sweats. Progesterone, one of the hormones responsible for regulating sleep, decreases during menopause. In addition to influencing sleep cycles, the decrease of progesterone increases body temperature and causes hot flashes.
The majority of women going through menopause report experiencing hot flashes at night, resulting in night sweats and extreme discomfort when falling asleep. Often, women wake up in the middle of the night covered head to toe in sweat. What makes the experience more uncomfortable is that hot flashes can last anywhere from a few seconds to ten minutes, depending on the individual, and they can happen multiple times within a night.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety naturally influence the body's ability to rest. Stress not only causes heightened brain activity, but it can cause hypertension in the body, making it difficult for the muscles to relax. Some women report additional muscle cramps when falling asleep due to this hypertension.
In addition to causing sleep deprivation and insomnia, increased levels of stress can cause high blood pressure and increased heart rates. Stress is cited as one of the most common contributing factors of cardiovascular disease. It increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke, especially in women over the age of 50.
The relationship between blood pressure and insomnia is not entirely understood, and research is still being done to determine how these two factors are correlated in menopausal/postmenopausal women. However, there are ways to help combat both of these issues during menopause. These can include things like blood pressure medications, moderate exercise, and changes in diet and nutrition.
Medications and other treatments
For some women, high blood pressure is largely attributed to genetics. Even with proper exercise and diet, they may find that they still experience high blood pressure even when they are completely relaxed. This is perfectly normal and far more common than most women realize.
The key to finding the right blood pressure medication is being able to identify what the largest contributing factors are. Does your high blood pressure stem from an excess of sodium (salt) in your bloodstream or does it stem from a naturally high heart rate? Talk to a general care provider about what medications may work best for you based on family medical history, diet, and so forth.
Women who are going through menopause are highly encouraged to engage in moderate exercise on a daily basis to decrease the risk of high blood pressure and insomnia. Moderate exercise, like brisk walks, light jogs, pilates, and even fundamental of martial arts training, can help reduce stress levels. When stress is reduced, it can significantly lower blood pressure. The recommended amount of exercise for menopausal/postmenopausal women is 150 minutes a week, or at least 30 minutes a day.
How can moderate exercise lower blood pressure? When we exercise, our brain releases endorphins throughout the body's nervous system and triggers the opioid receptors in our brain. These receptors help minimize discomfort and stimulate emotional responses like happiness and euphoria. So, when we exercise, we are directly influencing the chemicals in our brain responsible for making us feel happy and relaxed and reducing stress levels. When we feel relaxed, our heartbeat drops to a steady rate and lowers blood pressure.
Diet and nutrition
One of the indicators of high blood pressure is high sodium (salt) content in the bloodstream. This high quantity of sodium can stem from a number of different sources, but the one that is most likely to affect women in menopause is diet. Women who consume high quantities of salty foods are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure that could lead to cardiac arrest and strokes. Limiting sodium intake can help lower blood pressure and heart rate. Cutting out or limiting chips, fries, certain cured meats (bacon) and other high sources of sodium can help lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol health.
For additional information on how blood pressure affects sleep in the later years of life, the following research studies can provide you with more insight into the subject. Talk to your doctor about these studies so that you can determine the best methods to help lower blood pressure in the future.