Sleep deprivation (<or=5 hour per night) was associated with a higher risk of hypertension in middle-aged American adults but not among older individuals. However, the outcome was based on self-reported diagnosis of incident hypertension, and no gender-specific analyses were included. We examined cross-sectional and prospective associations of sleep duration with prevalent and incident hypertension in a cohort of 10,308 British civil servants aged 35 to 55 years at baseline (phase 1: 1985-1988). Data were gathered from phase 5 (1997-1999) and phase 7 (2003-2004). Sleep duration and other covariates were assessed at phase 5. At both examinations, hypertension was defined as blood pressure >or=140/90 mm Hg or regular use of antihypertensive medications. In cross-sectional analyses at phase 5 (n=5766), short duration of sleep (<or=5 hour per night) was associated with higher risk of hypertension compared with the group sleeping 7 hours, among women (odds ratio: 1.72[corrected]; 95% CI: 1.07[corrected] to 2.75[corrected]), independent of confounders, with an inverse linear trend across decreasing hours of sleep (P=0.037[corrected]). No association was detected in men. In prospective analyses (mean follow-up: 5 years), the cumulative incidence of hypertension was 20.0% (n=740) among 3691 normotensive individuals at phase 5. In women, short duration of sleep was associated with a higher risk of hypertension in a reduced model (age and employment) (6 hours per night: odds ratio: 1.56 [95% CI: 1.07 to 2.27]; <or=5 hour per night: odds ratio: 1.94 [95% CI: 1.08 to 3.50] versus 7 hours). The associations were attenuated after accounting for cardiovascular risk factors and psychiatric comorbidities (odds ratio: 1.42 [95% CI: 0.94 to 2.16]; odds ratio: 1.31 [95% CI: 0.65 to 2.63], respectively). Sleep deprivation may produce detrimental cardiovascular effects among women.