From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Good Eats: Eat for Solid Sleep,” by Erin Zimniewicz Williams, in the September 2009 issue. Article summary: Sleep deprivation can result from difficulty falling asleep or poor sleep quality, and there are several dietary habits that can exacerbate both. Here, learn what dietary changes you can make to improve sleep patterns.

Getting enough sleep is about more than just feeling refreshed. New research shows the amount of sleep one gets correlates to developing high blood pressure and diabetes.

Middle-aged adults who sleep fewer hours appear more likely to have high blood pressure and to experience adverse changes in blood pressure over time. This report ran in the June 8 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Almost one-third of Americans have hypertension or high blood pressure, a condition that contributes to 7 million deaths worldwide each year, according to background information in the article. “Identifying a novel lifestyle risk factor for high blood pressure could lead to new interventions to prevent or reduce high blood pressure,” the authors write. “Laboratory studies of short-term sleep deprivation have suggested potential mechanisms for a causal link between sleep loss and hypertension.”

Sleep deprivation is associated with increased activity in the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the body’s stress response. Over time, this activation could contribute to high blood pressure.

Sleeping less also predicted increases in blood pressure over five years, along with the onset of hypertension. Each hour of reduction in sleep duration was associated with a 37 percent increase in the odds of developing high blood pressure.

In other research, insomnia with short sleep duration was found to be a risk factor for diabetes. The research abstract was presented on June 9, at SLEEP 2009, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.

Results indicate that compared with people who slept six hours or more while being monitored in the sleep laboratory, individuals with insomnia who slept for five or fewer hours had the highest risk of diabetes (odds ratio of 2.95); people with insomnia who slept for five to six hours also had an elevated risk of diabetes (odds ratio of 2.07).

According to lead author Alexandros Vgontzas, M.D., endowed chair in Sleep Disorders Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania, patients suffering from insomnia with short sleep duration are at a serious health risk.

“The more severe form of insomnia (insomnia with short objective sleep duration) is associated with a risk for diabetes similar to the elevated risk associated with obstructive sleep apnea,” said Vgontzas.