After a divorce, it is fairly common to have trouble sleeping. However, if the problem persists beyond 10 weeks, it could lead to problems with your mental health and your blood pressure, according to a study performed by the University of Arizona. The study, which is due to publish in the journal Health Psychology, examined the sleeping patterns and blood pressure of 138 people who were separated or divorced from their partner 16 weeks before the study began.

The shock of divorce is a known cause of anxiety and panic for couples, and especially women. While men suffer more long-term effects after a divorce if they do not remarry, women suffer short-term anxieties more seriously. This includes panic attacks, stress, and overall deterioration of health. Blood pressure spikes, too, are common in the recently divorced partially because of the close association between panic and anxiety attacks and blood pressure concerns.

About the Study

For seven and a half months, researchers measured the blood pressures and sleeping patterns of the 138 recruited patients for the study. Researchers measured the sleep quality of participants using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, a self-reported questionnaire that measures factors like snoring, tossing and turning, and difficulty falling or staying asleep. Participants came in a total of three times each, filled out the questionnaire, and had their blood pressure taken.

Researchers discovered a delayed effect between sleeplessness during the first visit and a rise in blood pressure in the next two visits. “Earlier sleep problems predicted increases in resting blood pressure over time," said David Sbarra, UA associate professor of psychology and co-author of the study. This rise in blood pressure could lead to other potential problems, including an aneurysm, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure.

Why Lowering Blood Pressure is Important—and How to Do It

Mental health problems are one of the leading causes of post-divorce insomnia. If it is not aided by therapy and medications, the high blood pressure of divorcees could lead to greater health problems, or death. "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," said Sbarra.

Lead study author Kendra Krietsh suggests that people with persistent trouble sleeping should seek help through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a therapy commonly used to treat anxiety. Additionally, people could find new bedtime rituals to help promote relaxation and a better night's rest. Either which way, it is important to seek help for persistent sleeping problems to improve overall quality of life and resolve health concerns.

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"Losing Sleep Over Your Divorce? Your Blood Pressure Could Suffer." UANews. (Accessed July 22, 2014).