Autonomic dysfunction and sleep problems are closely associated with hypertension and predict cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Animal studies and clinical observations have identified exercise as an important factor in preventing and treating hypertension. However, the roles of autonomic function and sleep in the antihypertensive mechanisms of exercise are still not fully understood. This study aimed to clarify the physiological mechanisms associated with autonomic function and sleep through wheel exercise. Male spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs) were grouped into a wheel-exercised group and a sedentary group (controls). Electroencephalogram, electromyogram, electrocardiogram, and mean arterial pressure (MAP) were recorded simultaneously for 24 h once a week over 11 weeks. Wheel exercise was initiated in the SHRs at 12 weeks old and continued for another eight weeks. A significant suppression in the age-related elevation of MAP was noted in the SHRs undergoing wheel exercise. The reduction in MAP was correlated with increased parasympathetic activity and baroreflex sensitivity and decreased sympathetic activity, mainly during quiet sleep. Exercise increased the paradoxical sleep time and theta power (associated with cognitive function) but not the delta power (an indicator of sleep depth) or the attenuation of circadian rhythm flattening (characterized by increased wakefulness and less sleep during the light period and the opposite during the dark period). Furthermore, the exercise-induced changes in autonomic function occurred before those in sleep patterns, which were dependent on each other. In conclusion, wheel exercise can modulate sleep-related cardiovascular dysfunction and the flattening of circadian rhythm, preventing the progression of hypertension, which reduces the incidence of cardiovascular diseases.
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The authors take full responsibility for the experimental design and data collection, analysis, and interpretation. We thank Ms Yu-Syuan Liou for her article production support. This work was financially supported by a grant (107BRC-B506) from the Brain Research Center, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, from the Featured Areas Research Center Program within the framework of the Higher Education Sprout Project by the Ministry of Education in Taiwan; a grant (10601-62-012) from Taipei City Hospital; and grants (MOST 106-2314-B-010-025 and MOST 106-2627-E-010-001) from the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan. The authors did not receive any other financial support from any manufacturer.
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Chen, CW., Kuo, T.B.J., Hsu, PC. et al. Roles of sleep-related cardiovascular autonomic functions in voluntary-exercise-induced alleviation of hypertension in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Hypertens Res 45, 1154–1167 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41440-022-00916-1
- Heart rate variability
- Baroreceptor reflex sensitivity
- Sleep patterns