Hypertension and insomnia are very common and often coexist. There is evidence to suggest that the increasing prevalence of arterial hypertension in the past decade might be related both to an increased prevalence of insomnia and to the decline of sleep duration due to modern lifestyle. The aim of this paper is to reconsider both the clinical evidence of the relationship between conditions of sleep loss and of perceived impairment in sleep quality with hypertension and the potential pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the biological plausibility of their relationship. Through a systematic search from MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO we selected articles, which reported experimental sleep deprivation designs, or studied sleep duration or insomnia and their relationship with blood pressure or hypertension in participants over 18 years. This analysis shows that experimental sleep deprivation, short sleep duration, and persistent insomnia are associated with increased blood pressure and increased risk of hypertension, even after controlling for other risk factors. Pathophysiological mechanisms underlying this association might be related to inappropriate arousal (“hyperarousal”) due to an overactivation of stress system functions. According this hypothesis, prolonged sleep loss or alterations of sleep quality might act as a neurobiological and physiologic stressor that impair brain functions and contribute to allostatic load, compromising stress resilience and somatic health.
Keywords: Sleep deprivation, short sleep duration, insomnia and hypertension, stress, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO, sleep quality, somatic health