Background: Sleep disorders are associated to a number of cardiovascular disturbances that might increase cardiovascular risk. Sleep deprivation, in particular, might, by inducing autonomic dysregulation, raise arterial pressure and hypertensive risk. Available evidence however is contradictory.
Methods: We tested the main hypothesis that one night sleep deprivation in 24 volunteers might alter hemodynamics (heart rate and Arterial Pressure - AP), autonomic regulation (mono and bivariate spectral analysis of RR and non invasive AP variability) and baroreflex control (spectral index alpha and spontaneous baroreflex slope), performance indices (reaction time) and subjective stress (questionnaires and salivary cortisol). Volunteers were studied in normal living conditions and while kept in isolation and confinement, to test the presence of possible bias related to environmental stress.
Results: Results indicate that there were no differences between normal living conditions and isolation and confinement (Intraclass Correlation Coefficient >0.75 for most variables). Conversely, after one night sleep deprivation subjects felt tired (p<0.05), and performance deteriorated (p<0.05), while cortisol profile was substantially maintained, hemodynamic parameters did not change and HRV and index alpha increased slightly.
Conclusions: Findings support the contention that one night sleep deprivation, in absence of significant additional stress or disturbances, does not lead to increased arterial pressure values or to changes in autonomic or baroreflex profiles that could conceivably favor hypertension development, but induces the expected increase in tiredness and reduction in performance.