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Healthy Balance

Is Your Morning Alarm Putting Your Heart at Risk?

A man waking up, reaching out to stop an alarm clock

Jolting awake from the blaring sound of the alarm in the morning is pretty annoying. But, a recent study from UVA Health’s School of Nursing revealed something you may have already been suspecting – it can also be bad for your health. That morning alarm can cause a larger-than-normal spike in your blood pressure (called morning blood pressure surge), which in some folks can trigger a serious heart issue, like a heart attack or stroke.

Maybe consider changing up your morning routine?

Waking Up Makes Blood Pressure Rise

The study, performed by nursing student Yeonsu Kim, looked to explore how being forced to wake up abruptly might impact your health. The study focused on “morning blood pressure surge,” which is something your body does every day.

Morning blood pressure surge is a normal part of waking up. When you go from deep sleep to waking, your blood pressure naturally goes up.

The alarming part – Kim found that when the study participants used an alarm to wake up, they had a morning blood pressure surge that was 74% higher than those who woke up on their own.

This much higher spike in blood pressure puts stress on your heart and veins. It could also turn on your “flight or fight” response, which also makes your heart work harder and could cause fatigue, trouble breathing, or other symptoms.

If you're someone who is already dealing with heart issues, all of that added stress could lead to a scary health emergency.

Lack of Sleep Also Contributes

It might not have been just the alarm that was causing the surge, however. The participants were only allowed to have 5 hours of sleep and then were forced awake with an alarm.

But this exact situation is pretty common every night across the U.S. About 1 in 3 Americans gets fewer than 7 hours of sleep per night. And, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. That lack of sleep along with an alarm forcing you awake may be putting you on course for a visit to the emergency room.

Concerns about your blood pressure?

Our Heart & Vascular Center prevention experts can help you stop heart issues before they start.

Measuring Morning Blood Pressure Surge

For the study, the participants had smartwatches and blood pressure cuffs on while sleeping to measure their vital signs.

The first night, the participants woke up naturally. For the second night, they set an alarm to wake them up after only 5 hours of sleep. Kim measured the morning blood pressure surges on both days and compared them.

This small study was done over 2 days with only 32 participants. So, more studies are needed to confirm Kim’s findings. But at least 1 participant said they planned to change their waking routine.

Options for Better Waking

Kim's study also suggests that there are better ways to wake up. Two recent research studies found that waking up to melodic sounds or exposing yourself to light in the morning can help you wake up more gently and stay alert.

Luckily, there are lots of options today for different kinds of alarms to wake up in the morning. Some use lights that gradually get brighter. Others use more calm, gentle sounds or release pleasant scents instead of a screeching alarm.

If you’re someone who already has heart issues, think about talking with your doctor on how to change up your waking routine.

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