Blood pressure can be a finicky thing. Why is it so finicky though? What causes our blood pressure to change so often? Anything can affect the rising or lowering of our blood pressure, such as work, stress, sleep, food, exercise, time of day, and medication. Why does it change with all of these things?
Regular Blood Pressure
To first understand if our blood pressure is low or high, we must first understand what a normal and healthy blood pressure looks like. A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 mm Hg. How then do we understand this normal reading?
Explaining Blood Pressure Terms
When our hearts are beating and putting blood out to our arteries, it is called “systole”. This is when the pressure of the removal of blood into our arteries causes the arteries to rise. It is otherwise known as the “systolic blood pressure”.
When hearts are not “actively” beating, in between contractions of the muscle, there is a slight pause with which the heart uses to refill with blood to pump back out to the arteries.
This moment of pause is called “diastole”. This is read as the “diastolic blood pressure”.
So if a normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg, it can be read as “120 over 80” and means the pressure of the blood flowing out of the heart over the pressure of the blood flowing in.
Irregular Blood Pressure Readings
If 120/80 mm Hg is a regular blood pressure, then it can be assumed that anything lower or higher is then irregular. Blood pressure at or above 120/80 and lower than 140/90 is considered normal to high blood pressure.
When your blood pressure is above 140/90, it means that your heart is working too hard and will stress itself out with all the work that it is doing. Hypertension simply means “high blood pressure” and it is when a lot of your blood is being pumped through slender arteries, causing a lot of pressure and unnecessary stress on your artery walls. This stress can result in health problems.
Hypotension, while maybe thought to be your blood pressure readings below 120/80, is actually your blood pressure readings of 90/60. This is shockingly low and can be shown through dizziness, fainting, and shock. Low blood pressure shows that not enough blood is pumping through to your arteries and that could result in a numerous amount of other problems.
The Causes of Low Blood Pressure
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of things that can result in low blood pressure. Work, stress, sleep, food, exercise, time of day, and medication all play parts in our blood pressure rising and falling. How exactly do these all affect our blood pressures?
Work and Stress
It is no secret that most Americans feel stressed by our work. Statistically 83 percent of Americans have work-related stress. When we are stressed, our adrenaline rises, causing our hearts to beat faster and therefore pump the blood to our arteries quicker.
When the blood is pumped more quickly like this, it causes too much force on your arteries, causing your blood pressure to rise. Thankfully, when the stressful situation is resolved, our blood pressures return back to normal.
The foods we eat greatly affect our blood pressure. Everything we eat gives us energy and depending on how much of something we eat, it can change the way our bodies are moving and working. For example, foods with high fibers and carbohydrates are harder for our bodies to digest, causing our bodies and organs to work harder than normal.
This in turn means that our organs need more blood pumped to them which then means our heart needs to work faster to pump more blood through our arteries. Then because of all the work that our hearts and other organs are doing, this puts extra pressure on the arteries and causes our blood pressure to rise.
When drinking alcohol, our heart rates increase, causing our hearts to beat faster and therefore putting stress on our arteries. This causes our blood pressure to rise. The more alcohol that we drink, the more adrenaline goes rushing through our systems. As we know from above, adrenaline causes our hearts to beat faster and raise our blood pressure.
There is a large majority of us Americans that love a good salty snack. The problem with loving salty snacks is that the high sodium intake can cause multiple health issues. One of these issues is obviously, high blood pressure. Salt tends to soak up the water in our bodies, drying out our water supply.
As the water and various other things get dried up, our hearts need to work harder to get the thicker blood through to our arteries, putting stress on the arteries and causing our blood pressures to rise.
Caffeine affects our bodies in very similar ways that alcohol does. We have all heard people saying that they have “the jitters” from drinking too much coffee. That phrase is the perfect representation of what is happening. The caffeine is skyrocketing our adrenaline, (helping us to stay awake), and as we know, high adrenaline means harder work for our hearts, resulting in high blood pressure.
Medications can raise our blood pressures as well. If we already have a normally high blood pressure, it is best to stay away from these medications.
Cold medications, specifically those with decongestants in them, can raise our blood pressure. This is because decongestants narrow our blood vessels, making the blood harder to flow through and putting extra pressure on our blood vessels and arteries.
Stimulants are used to make the heart beat faster. When our hearts beat faster, more blood is being pumped through our veins, therefore putting pressure on our veins and raising our blood pressure.
Hormonal Birth Control
Birth control can raise our blood pressure levels because it is narrowing our blood vessels. Most birth controls come with this warning, and while it is not the same for everyone, high blood pressure is a risk when taking birth control.
How Does Our Blood Pressure Change in the Night?
As we are sleeping, our bodies are, obviously, in a restful state. In that state, our bodies are still working. They are still burning calories, it is still breathing and our hearts are still beating. Although because we are sleeping and our bodies are in a restful state, our bodies do not have to work as hard as they would during the day when we are awake.
Our blood pressure tends to lower as we sleep. Because we are resting, we are not eating or exercising or stressing over anything and that means that our heart rates stay the same, which means that our blood pressure stays the same as well.
The exception to our blood pressure lowering at night is if we have startling dreams, an already occurring health problem, or if we sleep walk and happen to eat food while we are sleepwalking. These things startle our bodies and cause them to metaphorically wake up, on the inside at least.
Why Is Our Blood Pressure Higher in the Morning?
Now we come to the main question. Why is our blood pressure high in the morning? It could be anything from a health issue, to simply your body waking up. Our blood pressure actually rises during the whole day, usually getting to its highest in the afternoon. What are the causes of morning high blood pressure?
Our Bodies Are Waking Up
The most common explanation for our blood pressure being high in the morning is that our bodies are waking up. As we sleep, our bodies are “shut down” meaning that our hearts and insides do not need to work as hard as when they are awake. As we wake up, so does our body. Think of it like a factory. When it is closed for the night, nothing is happening. It is dark and quiet.
In the morning, as the workers start to flow in for the work day, the factory gets increasingly busy. This is the same with our bodies. As we sleep, our insides are quiet and resting. As we wake up, our insides too, wake up and start to flow more than they did when we were asleep. Our blood pressure will fluctuate through the day but this could be a reason for our blood pressure to be high in the morning.
Our blood pressure could also rise if we do not get a good night of sleep. When our bodies do not rest as they should, our systems are tired. When our systems are tired and going without rest, our hearts have to work extra hard to keep everything going properly. Without the rest that we need, our blood pressure could rise in the morning.
It is no surprise that health issues cause numerous other issues in our bodies. This includes causing high blood pressure.
These issues can be things like:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea: When you stop breathing, and then rapidly and suddenly start breathing again, our body startles itself to work heartily, causing high blood pressure.
- Kidney Issues: When we have kidney issues, the blood vessels around and in the kidney are damaged. When these blood vessels are damaged, the rest of our bodies blood vessels have to work even harder to make up for that loss, resulting in high blood pressure.
- Diabetes: Diabetes damages the blood vessels in or around the kidney. This again means that the rest of our blood vessels have to work harder, causing high blood pressure.
- Thyroid Problems: Thyroid problems generally mean that our thyroid glands are producing too much of the thyroid hormone. When there is an excess of the thyroid hormone in our systems, our hearts need to work harder to pump the blood through to get rid of the extra hormone.
- Nervous system problems: When we have nervous system problems, our nerves and blood vessels tighten up, making a narrow runway for our blood to pass through. Because there is not a lot of room for our blood to move, this means our heart needs to work harder.
- Cardiovascular disease: Cardiovascular diseases mean diseases of the heart. Our hearts are what pumps the blood through our vessels. When the heart has a problem, it needs to work extra hard to continue to get the blood to the rest of our bodies. This in turn causes high blood pressure.
- High Cholesterol: When we have high cholesterol, our arteries narrow and tighten up, making it harder for the blood to flow through. When it is hard to flow through, our hearts have to work hard to push the blood along, resulting in high blood pressure.
- Lupus: Those of us with lupus usually struggle with high blood pressure. Lupus patients struggle with obesity, kidney issues, and lots of steroids. Kidney issues cause those vessels in and around the kidney to fail, causing high blood pressure. Obesity means that there is more fat stored in our bodies than is meant to be stored. When there is too much fat, it is harder for our vessels and blood to get around, putting pressure there and therefore causing high blood pressure.
- Scleroderma: Scleroderma, a chronic hardening of the skin and connective tissue, can cause high blood pressure. When the connective tissue hardens up, so do parts of our blood vessels, making it hard, or even impossible for the blood to get through.
- Cushing’s Syndrome: Obesity and high blood pressure are often associated with Cushing’s Syndrome. It can impair growth and cause muscle weakness, both of which need our blood vessels to flow easily. Without the easy flow of our blood, there is a rise in our blood pressure.
Waking up in the morning means for a majority of us, that it is time to go to work again. This can be a stressful time. When paired with a noisy alarm and the desire to sleep longer, our blood pressure can shoot up.
Being tired, along with the stress and uninterest in going to work, means that our hearts will beat faster and have to work harder, causing a spike in our blood pressure.
Blood Pressure Lowering Medication
If any of us for any reason take blood pressure lowering medication, it most likely does not last for very long. When we sleep, the medications will wear off, resulting in a blood pressure spike when we wake up. Or, potentially, the medications actually cause irregular blood pressure levels, not making it any easier for our bodies to regulate that in the morning.
So why does our blood pressure tend to be higher in the morning? Remember, our blood pressure fluctuates all day depending on our foods and medications and stress levels. Why is it specifically high in the morning though? There could be a multitude of reasons. If we already have a tendency for high blood pressure then it is not very surprising that it would also be high in the morning.
For those of us with generally normal blood pressure levels, it can be stressful to find out that our blood pressures are higher in the morning. We need to make sure that we are getting adequate amounts of sleep to fuel our bodies and prepare them for the day ahead. With proper sleep, our blood pressure could go down.
Stress also plays a role, so whatever we can do to ease our stress, whether it is some alone time or going to exercise, easing our stress could help. Overall, we need to just help our bodies be the healthiest that they can be and therefore help our bodies perform in the ways that they are meant to do.