"For the first time, we demonstrated that insufficient sleep causes increases in night time blood pressure and dampens nocturnal blood pressure dipping," said lead author Naima Covassin from Mayo Clinic in the US.The results stemmed from a controlled study that mimicked the sleep loss experienced by many people.

"We know high blood pressure, particularly during the night, is one of the major risk factors for heart disease," Covassin said.In this study, eight healthy normal weight participants aged 19 to 36 participated in a 16-day in-patient protocol consisting of a four-day acclimation period followed by nine days of either sleep restriction (four hours of sleep per night) or normal sleep (nine hours of sleep per night), and three days of recovery.

Twenty four blood pressure monitorings at regular intervals were measured at each study phase.During night time, in the sleep restriction phase compared to normal sleep phase, systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure averaged 115/64 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) versus 105/57 mm Hg respectively, researchers found.Furthermore, the expected fall in blood pressure during the night was suppressed when the people had inadequate sleep.

They also found that night time heart rate was higher with sleep restriction than in normal sleep.The findings are scheduled to be presented at the American College of Cardiology's 64th Annual Scientific Session in San Diego on March 15.

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