If you’re like 50 percent of all Americans who have at some point been married, you might be divorced — or currently going through a divorce. And if you’re a divorcee, you most likely suffer from sleep deprivation. Now, researchers have also linked high blood pressure to divorcees’ sleeping problems, noting that these effects can be harmful in the long term.
In a new study published in Health Psychology, researchers reviewed 138 people who had been separated or divorced about 16 weeks before the start of the report. Participants reported on their quality of sleep, and researchers also monitored their blood pressure over seven months. The researchers found that as sleep problems continued, blood pressure levels also gradually increased over time.
“In the initial few months after a separation, sleep problems are probably pretty normal, and this is an adjustment process that people can typically cope with well,” said David Sbarra, co-author of the study and an associate professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, in a news release. “But sleep problems that persist for an extended period may mean something different. It may mean that people are potentially becoming depressed, that they’re struggling with getting their life going again, and it is these people that are particularly susceptible to health problems.”
The researchers ultimately concluded that sleep problems occurring earlier on in the separation or divorce ultimately led to an increase in blood pressure over time. “What we found was if you’re having sleep problems up to about 10 weeks after your separation, they don’t appear to be associated with your future increase in blood pressure,” Sbarra said. “However, after 10 or so weeks — after some sustained period of time — there seems to be a cumulative bad effect.”
Getting enough sleep is incredibly important, especially for a person under stress, as sleep can keep the immune system boosted, keep your weight in check, prevent diabetes, and fight both anxiety and depression. “If somebody is going through a divorce and unable to sleep, they really need to get some help or it could lead to problems,” lead author Kendra Krietsch said in the news release. “We are all going to go through something stressful in our lives, whether it’s a divorce or something else, and this shows how important it is for all of us to value sleep and take care of ourselves.”
Source: Krietsch K, Sbarra D, Mason A. Sleep Complaints Predict Increases in Resting Blood Pressure Following Marital Separation. Health Psychology. 2014.