Cardiovascular-sleep interaction in drug-naïve patients with essential grade I hypertension

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lack of nighttime blood pressure (BP) reduction by 10-20% from the mean daytime values (dipping) has been described as a distinguishing feature of essential hypertension and associated, also in normotensive subjects, with increased cardiovascular (CV) risk. Mechanisms involved in the loss of the nocturnal dip are still unclear, but involvement of autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity probably plays a crucial role. Sleep is fundamental in modulating ANS activity to maintain the physiological BP circadian rhythm, and for this reason its integrity has been widely investigated in hypertension. We investigated, under controlled conditions, the autonomic control of the CV system through an autonomic reflex screen in the awake condition and by assessment of circadian rhythm-, day-night-, time-, and state-dependent changes of BP and heart rate (HR) and associated sleep parameters in patients with a recent (≤1 yr) diagnosis of essential grade I hypertension naïve of therapy. Fourteen hypertensive patients (6 males, age: 43 ± 11 yrs; body mass index [BMI]: 24 ± 3 kg/m2) were compared with 28 healthy controls matched for sex, age, BMI (2 controls/patient) for cardiovascular reflex and to 8 different subjects from previous controls (6 males), comparable for age and BMI, for the day-night and nighttime CV profiles during two consecutive nights. The cardiovascular reflex screen data showed increased sympathetic effect in hypertensive patients, represented by higher overshoot of BP after Valsalva maneuver. Nighttime sleep architecture during the dark period in terms of duration, representation of sleep stages, sleep fragmentation, and incidence of arousals-periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS) and PLMS arousals-was similar in patients and controls. Hypertensive patients displayed higher 24-h BP and HR values, but their sleep-related BP decrease was significantly reduced compared with controls. The circadian rhythms of BP and HR were intact and similar in patients and controls, coupling with the expected physiological peak time. BP and HR showed normal state-dependent modulation in hypertensive patients that, however, was higher in all sleep stages compared with controls. The lowering of systolic blood pressure (SBP) during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep stages 1 and 2 and REM sleep, relative to daytime wake values, was significantly attenuated in the hypertensive group, whereas it was comparable to controls during slow-wave sleep. In hypertensive patients, analysis of sleep and CV parameters in the 90 min following sleep onset and preceding morning awakening showed normal depressor effect during the first part of the night after sleep onset and significantly higher BP rise in the hours preceding morning awakening. These findings were associated with comparable sleep architecture, sleep fragmentation, incidence of arousals, and PLMS and PLMS arousals in patients and controls. Our data suggest that drug-naïve essential grade I hypertension is associated with signs of increased vascular sympathetic response to standardized stress of the Valsalva maneuver during the awake condition, and during sleep with a non-dipping BP profile plus higher BP surge preceding morning awakening, assessable only by around-the-clock ambulatory BP monitoring, both representing additional CV risk already in early-stage hypertension and, therefore, requiring proper selection of pharmacological treatment. (Author correspondence:

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-42
Number of pages12
JournalChronobiology International
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • 24-h blood pressure monitoring
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Essential hypertension
  • Non-dipper blood pressure pattern
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Cardiovascular-sleep interaction in drug-naïve patients with essential grade I hypertension'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this