Effects of Inadequate Sleep on Blood Pressure and Endothelial Inflammation in Women: Findings From the American Heart Association Go Red for Women Strategically Focused Research Network

J Am Heart Assoc. 2018 Jun 9;7(12):e008590. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.118.008590.


Background: Insufficient sleep increases blood pressure. However, the effects of milder, highly prevalent but frequently neglected sleep disturbances, including poor sleep quality and insomnia, on vascular health in women are unclear. We investigated whether poor sleep patterns are associated with blood pressure and endothelial inflammation in a diverse sample of women.

Methods and results: Women who participated in the ongoing American Heart Association Go Red for Women Strategically Focused Research Network were studied (n=323, 57% minority, mean age=39±17 years, range=20-79 years). Sleep duration, sleep quality, and time to sleep onset were assessed using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (score ≥5=poor sleep quality). Risk for obstructive sleep apnea was evaluated using the Berlin questionnaire, and insomnia was assessed using the Insomnia Severity Index. In a subset of women who participated in the basic study (n=26), sleep duration was assessed objectively using actigraphy, and endothelial inflammation was assessed directly in harvested endothelial cells by measuring nuclear translocation of nuclear factor kappa B. Vascular reactivity was measured by brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (n=26). Systolic and diastolic blood pressure were measured by trained personnel (n=323). Multivariable linear regressions were used to evaluate associations between sleep patterns and blood pressure, nuclear factor kappa B, and flow-mediated dilation. Mean sleep duration was 6.8±1.3 hours/night in the population study and 7.5±1.1 hour/night in the basic study. In the population study sample, 50% had poor sleep quality versus 23% in the basic study, and 37% had some level of insomnia versus 15% in the basic study. Systolic blood pressure was associated directly with poor sleep quality, and diastolic blood pressure was of borderline significance with obstructive sleep apnea risk after adjusting for confounders (P=0.04 and P=0.08, respectively). Poor sleep quality was associated with endothelial nuclear factor kappa B activation (β=30.6; P=0.03). Insomnia and longer sleep onset latency were also associated with endothelial nuclear factor kappa B activation (β=27.6; P=0.002 and β=8.26; P=0.02, respectively). No evidence was found for an association between sleep and flow-mediated dilation.

Conclusions: These findings provide direct evidence that common but frequently neglected sleep disturbances such as poor sleep quality and insomnia are associated with increased blood pressure and vascular inflammation even in the absence of inadequate sleep duration in women.

Clinical trial registration: URL: https://www.clinicaltrials.gov. Unique identifier: NCT02835261.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease prevention; sleep; women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • American Heart Association
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / epidemiology*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • NF-kappa B / blood
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / physiopathology
  • Sleep*
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vasodilation
  • Women's Health*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • NF-kappa B

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02835261