Total sleep deprivation elevates blood pressure through arterial baroreflex resetting: a study with microneurographic technique

Sleep. 2003 Dec 15;26(8):986-9. doi: 10.1093/sleep/26.8.986.


Study objectives: Sleep deprivation has a profound effect on cardiovascular regulation through the autonomic nervous system. This study examined the effect of 24-hour total sleep deprivation on muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA), which is a direct measurement of the postganglionic sympathetic efferent innervating the vascular bed in the skeletal muscle and other circulatory structures.

Design: The study was performed on 6 young healthy men. The factors exerting influence on MSNA, such as aging, obesity, body posture, activity, intensity of illumination, and food and beverage consumption were strictly controlled. Burst rate and burst incidence were used as parameters of MSNA. The burst rate, burst incidence, heart rate, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure were measured after total sleep deprivation and control sleep. To perform a linear regression analysis of arterial baroreflex (ABR), the incidence of MSNA bursts corresponding to a given diastolic blood pressure (%MSNA) was examined.

Measurement and results: The diastolic blood pressure was significantly higher after total sleep deprivation than after control sleep (66.5 +/- 1.7 vs 57.4 +/- 3.3 mm Hg). The burst rate (9.6 +/- 1.8 vs 13.3 +/- 2.7 bursts/min) and burst incidence (21.6 +/- 4.5 vs 30.3 +/- 8.9 bursts/100 heart beats) of MSNA were significantly lower after total sleep deprivation than after control sleep (P < .05). Analysis of the ABR disclosed a significant linear regressive relation between %MSNA and diastolic blood pressure in every subject after both total sleep deprivation and control sleep. This result implies that the ABR regulates the occurrence of MSNA bursts under different diastolic blood pressure conditions. The threshold (X-axis intercept) of the blood pressure regression line (ie, an indicator of the ABR set point) shifted by 12 +/- 4.3 mm Hg toward a higher blood pressure level after total sleep deprivation (P < .05). The ABR sensitivity, or the slope of the regression line, tended to be less steep after total sleep deprivation than after control sleep, although it was not statistically significant (P = .09).

Conclusions: The diastolic blood pressure increased and both burst rate and burst incidence of MSNA decreased after total sleep deprivation. The results show that resetting of the ABR toward a higher blood pressure level occurred after total sleep deprivation. This ABR resetting probably brings about an increase in arterial blood pressure after total sleep deprivation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Baroreflex / physiology*
  • Blood Glucose
  • Body Weight
  • Dopamine / blood
  • Electrocardiography
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electrophysiology / instrumentation
  • Epinephrine / blood
  • Glucagon / blood
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Hypertension / diagnosis
  • Hypertension / etiology*
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Norepinephrine / blood
  • Polysomnography
  • Posture / physiology
  • Sleep Deprivation / blood
  • Sleep Deprivation / complications*
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology*
  • Thyrotropin / blood


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Thyrotropin
  • Glucagon
  • Dopamine
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine