Experts have discovered that people who toss and turn before nodding off are at a higher risk of high blood pressure and heart problems.
A new study conducted by the West China hospital is the first to establish the link between difficulty getting to sleep and high blood pressure. Researchers studied 219 chronic insomniacs and 96 normal sleepers with an average age of 40, 60 per cent of whom were women. They defined chronic insomnia as difficulty sleeping for more than six months.
Participants spent one night in a specially equipped sleep laboratory and were allowed four 20-minute nap opportunities at two-hour intervals. Half the participants took 14 minutes or less to fall asleep and half took more than 14 minutes to fall asleep. Those that took more than 14 minutes to fall asleep were considered 'hyperaroused'. Taking longer than 17 minutes to get to sleep increased the odds of suffering high blood pressure by 400 per cent.
Dr Xiangdong Tang, a professor of sleep medicine at West China Hospital in Sichuan University said: "We observed a strong correlation between the degree of physiological hyperarousal (sleep difficulty) and hypertension."
The co-author Professor Alexandros Vgontzas, of Pennsylvania State University in the US, said: "Those insomniacs who were hyperalert during the day and unable to relax and fall asleep during the multiple latency sleep test had the higher risk of hypertension. Feeling hyperalert or sleepy doesn't allow people to function at their best, feel well during the day or sleep well at night, although insomniacs complain of fatigue and tiredness during the day, their problem is that they cannot relax and that they are hyper."
Experts recommend that if you are struggling to get to sleep at night, to avoid napping, caffeine or other stimulants that are used to combat fatigue in the day to help you feel less hyper at night, getting a better night's sleep.
For helpful sleep tips from our resident sleep expert, Dr Nerina, visit our Sleep Toolkit.