Losing Sleep Over Your Divorce? Your Blood Pressure Could Suffer

Those who experience persistent sleep problems after a divorce stand to suffer from more than just dark circles. They might also be at risk for potentially harmful increases in blood pressure, a new study finds.

A growing body of research links divorce to significant negative health effects and even early death, yet few studies have looked at why that connection may exist.

Divorce-related sleep troubles may be partly to blame, suggest the authors of a new study to be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Health Psychology.

"In the initial few months after a separation, sleep problems are probably pretty normal, and this is an adjustment process that people can typically cope with well," said UA associate professor of psychology David Sbarra, who co-authored the paper with two of his former students – lead author Kendra Krietsh and Ashley Mason.

"But sleep problems that persist for an extended period may mean something different. It may mean that people are potentially becoming depressed, that they're struggling with getting their life going again, and it is these people that are particularly susceptible to health problems," said Sbarra, who also is an affiliate faculty member in the UA's Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The study looked at 138 people who had physically separated from or divorced their partner about 16 weeks before the start of the study.

Participants were asked to report on their quality of sleep during three lab visits over a seven-and-a-half-month period, using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which takes into consideration sleep issues ranging from tossing and turning to snoring to difficulty falling and staying asleep. Participants' blood pressure also was measured at each of the three lab visits.

Although researchers did not observe a relationship between sleep complaints and blood pressure levels at the participants' first lab visits, they did observe a delayed effect, with participants showing increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure in later visits as a function of earlier sleep problems.

To read the rest of this July 16, 2014 UANews article, click the link below.

Date released: 
Jul 31 2014
Contact: 
Dave Sbarra