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  • Writer's pictureDmitri Konash

How To Sleep With High Blood Pressure

Updated: May 23, 2023

5 Steps to a great sleep to lower blood pressure


Have you ever woken up after a night's sleep following a stressful day and felt like you hardly rested at all? You feel tired and irritated. Your heart is beating faster than usual and you start the day with a headache. Welcome to the world where stress, anxiety, cardio health and sleep are closely intertwined.


According to the US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Yet, 1 in 3 American adults are sleeping less than that. Also, according to the CDC, high blood pressure is closely linked to a lack of sleep. 1 in 3 US adults suffer from hypertension and this proportion is similar in most places around the world [1].


To answer a popular question: yes, blood pressure lower when sleeping.


Does sleep help blood pressure? Personal Experience


I’ve been in this negative spiral myself. I used to get stressed at work, come home irritated and further upset myself and my family. This led to spikes in evening blood pressure readings. Then I would have a dreadful night, come to work tired, get even more stressed and so the doom loop continued.


Even after I managed to get my hypertension fundamentally under control with slow breathing exercises, aerobic workouts, meditation and yoga, it still took me a few years to work out a strict evening routine which helps me to wake up fully rested and with 120/80 blood pressure readings.


Here are the 5 steps of this routine. Also, below is a bonus tip on how to calculate a time when you need to go to bed to enjoy a restful sleep.


5-Step Better Sleep to Lower Blood Pressure Routine


1. Early dinner and zero alcohol on week days. I always finish eating by 7pm. This allows for the proper digestion process and helps better sleep. I allow myself a glass or two of wine over dinner with friends during a weekend but never consume alcohol after 8pm. Alcohol consumed close to sleep time is a guaranteed way to interrupt your sleep at night.


Also aim for a light dinner with as few calories if possible. Consume most of your calories during breakfast and lunch. Do not hesitate to skip an evening meal altogether or have just several portions of fruit. Your digestive system will thank you for this.



2. Evening walk. My family is privileged to live close to a nice park where myself and my wife go for a walk every day at 9:30pm. Whether it is raining or snowing we very rarely miss our 1 hour walks. Sharing news and planning family stuff helps to clear the mind of stressful thoughts.


IMPORTANT: A. No screen time after evening walks to limit exposure to blue light disrupting sleep. B. Evening exercise with a heart rate of more than 70% higher than your usual resting heart rate is not a great idea. It will have a negative impact on your sleep prep.


3. Warm shower. Warm bath before sleep is a great idea. Warm shower helps to dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure. It makes us feel more relaxed. I take warm showers before going to bed if I feel overly excited.


4. Reading. I love reading so I really cherish 1 hour of enjoying a good book which helps me to clear the mind even further. It is important to avoid a blue light during this pre-sleep time. This means reading either a paper book or an e-book with a paper white screen where you can control the colour of the screen and make it warmer. I usually read BEFORE an evening walk to reduce the negative effect of screen light.


5. Meditation or sleep story. The last 15 min before falling asleep I enjoy a guided meditation or a sleep story from a mobile app. Sometimes I listen to the meditations and sleep stories which we created for our blood pressure app BreathNow and our YouTube channel. Judging by the user feedback they work very well and help listeners to drift smoothly into the dreamland. Here is the link to one of our most popular meditations on YouTube.


Following the above routine means that I am asleep at 11pm. I maintain a full blackout and cool temperature in my bedroom. With my usual waking time of 7am it gives me 8 hours of solid recovery sleep and I feel fresh and full of energy the next day.


Find Your Optimal Go To Sleep Time


Now the bonus part. All of us are different. Some need 8 solid hours of sleep and some can get away with 7. Some easily wake up very early and some prefer a later start to the day. Then there are family and work requirements. How do you adjust the above routine to your schedule and your natural circadian rhythms to allow for sufficient night sleep which, among other things, will help to keep your blood pressure in the healthy range?


You will need to conduct several experiments. Over 2-3 consecutive weekends try to allow yourself to sleep as much as you want. Obviously avoiding disruptions like parties, late dinners and too much alcohol the evening before. Also try to avoid naps during the day as they are likely to skew the results of the experiment.


Calculate the average of your night sleep duration during this experiment. Let’s say it is 8 hours. Now count backwards from your required wake up time on weekdays. Let’s say you need to get up at 6am. This means you have to be in bed by around 9:30pm latest and sleeping by 10pm. You know you are doing it right when you wake up a few minutes before your alarm clock goes off.


Make no mistake: changing your life around this pre-sleep routine will take a significant effort on behalf of your family and yourself. Once implemented, however, it will change your life for good: from better blood pressure readings, to more energy and joy.



BreathNow blood pressure  app for Apple Watch includes a breathing exercise for better sleep

Update March 2023. BreathNow blood pressure app for Apple Watch includes now a breathing exercise which helps you to fall asleep faster. No need to follow a screen as the your Apple Watch will guide you through this breathing exercise with gentle vibration. And it will fall asleep after you do.


SUMMARY


1 in 3 adults across the world suffers from insufficient sleep and hypertension. Insufficient sleep negatively impacts blood pressure. Implement a strict pre-sleep routine for a better night rest and enjoy lower blood pressure, more energy and joy during the day:


- Early, light evening meal, zero alcohol

- Evening walk for at least 30min, preferably in nature

- Warm shower or bath

- Reading a paper or paper-white ebook with warm colour (no PC, TV, smartphone)

- Listen to meditation or sleep story


Please try this routine. Would love to hear your comments and also additional tips you deploy to make your sleep better and blood pressure lower.


REFERENCE


1. How does sleep affect your heart health, US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/sleep.htm


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