Researchers funded by NHLBI have found that the autonomic nervous system, which regulates many bodily functions, could have a major role in older women who are sleep deprived. The finding, published in the American Journal of Physiology, was notable given that older women have a higher risk of developing hypertension than men of the same age.
The study included 27 men and women between 55-75 years of age. Researchers measured blood pressure and used microneurography to measure the nerve signals that travel from the brain to the blood vessels after being sleep deprived and after a normal nights rest. They found that sleep deprivation increased both men and women. Sleep deprivation also caused women—not men—to have a large neural response, suggesting that women are more sensitive to lack of sleep than men.
The study adds to a growing body of literature uncovering the link between sleep deprivation and hypertension, and could inform the role of sleep as medicine to treat cardiometabolic diseases.