Sympathetic neural responsiveness to sleep deprivation in older adults: sex differences

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Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology


Our laboratory has previously reported that total sleep deprivation (TSD) modifies muscle sympathetic neural activity (MSNA) differently in young men and women. Because postmenopausal women are among the highest risk for hypertension, this study compares MSNA responses with TSD in older men and women. We hypothesized that TSD would alter MSNA in older adults, with greater sympathoexcitation in postmenopausal women. Twenty-seven participants (14 men and 13 women) between the ages of 55 and 75 yr were tested twice, once after 24-h TSD and once after normal sleep (randomized, crossover design). Our primary outcome measure of MSNA (microneurography) was successful across both conditions in 20 participants (10 men and 10 women). Secondary outcome measures included seated blood pressure, heart rate, and fasting plasma testosterone, estradiol, and progesterone. Age (60 ± 1 vs. 61 ± 2 yr) and BMI (27 ± 1 vs. 26 ± 1 kg/m2) were not different between groups. TSD increased systolic blood pressure in both men (124 ± 5 to 130 ± 4 mmHg) and women (107 ± 5 to 116 ± 4 mmHg), but the increases were not different between groups (condition, P = 0.014; condition × sex, P > 0.05). In contrast, TSD elicited divergent MSNA responses in older men and women. Specifically, MSNA burst frequency increased in postmenopausal women (28 ± 3 to 34 ± 3 burst/min), but not older men (38 ± 3 to 35 ± 3 bursts/min; condition × sex, P = 0.032). In conclusion, TSD elicited sympathoexcitation in postmenopausal women but not age-matched men. These findings provide new mechanistic insight into reported links between sleep deprivation and hypertension.

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© 2019 the American Physiological Society. Publisher's version of record:

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American Journal of Physiology - Hear and Circulatory Physiology