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 from the University of Arizona has found.
“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 David Sbarra, an associate professor of psychology who co-authored the paper. “But sleep problems that persist for an extended period 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.”
The study asked 138 people separated or divorced from their partners to report on their quality of sleep during three lab visits over a seven-and-a-half-month period. Blood pressure also was measured at each visit.
Although researchers did not observe a relationship between sleep complaints and blood pressure levels at the 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.
The researchers also found that the longer sleep problems persisted after a separation, the more likely those problems were to have an adverse effect on blood pressure.