If you’ve had a hard night sleeping, or a few weeks of disrupted sleep, you can catch up on that sleep the next chance you get, right? A new study challenges our assumptions of how much sleeping in on the weekends to make up for a sleepless week can really help us.
Researchers at Penn State University stacked how well sleep accumulates versus the effects that missing sleep can have on the cardiovascular system. They followed 15 healthy participants in an eleven-day sleep study while taking cardiovascular metrics like heart rate and blood pressure in two-hour intervals. Their sleep was unrestricted for the first three nights and some participants slept up to 10 hours. After that, they were only allowed to sleep five hours each night for the next five days, and then were given two nights to sleep up to 10 hours again if they wished to mimic the effect of a weekend off.
The beginning heart rate averaged at 69 beats per minute but was increased on the second day up to 78 BPM. In fact, the researchers noted that heart rate went up almost one beat per minute for the rest of the days the study. Blood pressure began at an average of 116 mmHG but went up to 119.5 mmHG by the end of the eleven-day study.
Their heart rates and blood pressure did not go back down to their baseline measurements even after being given two full nights’ rest and the opportunity to sleep 10 hours to make up for their sleep deprived nights. It’s a stark reminder that the body needs rest and interrupted or sleepless nights can take quite a toll on the cardiovascular system. The researchers hypothesize that these little episodes which effect the heart and blood pressure may accumulate over time and could lead to more complications with the cardiovascular system.
To ensure you’re getting a good night’s rest, unwind and be mindful of blue light from tv screens and devices, eat a well balanced diet, and don’t fall the for the old adage that says you can catch up on your sleep.
David A. Reichenberger, Kelly M. Ness, Stephen M. Strayer, Gina Marie Mathew, Margeaux M. Schade, Orfeu M. Buxton, Anne-Marie Chang. Recovery sleep following sleep restriction is insufficient to return elevated daytime heart rate and systolic blood pressure to baseline levels. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2023; Publish Ahead of Print DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000001229