The Best Time to Take Blood Pressure Medication

The typical advice for when to take your high blood pressure (hypertension) medication has been to take it in the morning. However, there's growing evidence that most blood pressure drugs are more effective when people take them at night.

This is largely due to a concept called chronotherapy. It is an approach to the timing of medical treatment based on circadian rhythm, the body's natural cycle of physical changes that take place every 24 hours. The approach has been used to find the best times of day to treat other medical conditions, including sleep apnea, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes.

This article explains how many types of blood pressure drugs work. It looks at how blood pressure naturally tends to rise and fall, and how the best time to take your medication may be influenced by chronotherapy principles.

Taking high blood pressure medication.

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How Blood Pressure Medication Works

There are 11 types of blood pressure medication. Each works in different ways, but the overall goal of hypertension drugs is to make it easier for blood to flow and for the heart to beat.

  • Diuretics flush excess fluid and sodium out of the body.
  • Beta-blockers make the heart beat more slowly. They reduce how hard it has to work and the amount of blood it has to put out.
  • ACE inhibitors help to reduce the amount of a hormone called angiotensin. This hormone causes arteries to narrow.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers block the receptors for angiotensin to prevent it from narrowing arteries.
  • Calcium channel blockers relax and dilate (widen) blood vessels. They also lower heart rate.
  • Alpha-blockers help to relax the walls of blood vessels.
  • Alpha-2 receptor agonists lower the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. This is a part of the nervous system that controls heart rate and other involuntary body functions.
  • Combined alpha- and beta-blockers are mostly used to treat people having a hypertensive crisis. They are sometimes prescribed for those at high risk of heart failure.
  • Central agonists make it harder for blood vessels to contract.
  • Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors block chemicals in the brain that play a role in causing blood vessels to become narrow.
  • Vasodilators relax the walls of blood vessels. This helps them to widen and allows blood to flow more easily.

When Is Blood Pressure Highest?

Blood pressure rises and falls in a fairly predictable pattern. When you wake up in the morning, it surges. It then increases throughout the day. At night, during sleep, it tends to drop again.

However, this isn't always the case for people with high blood pressure. In fact, there are four distinct patterns of nighttime blood pressure shifts. They are:

  • A normal drop in blood pressure of 10% to 20%
  • Extreme dipping, which is a drop of more than 20%
  • Nondipping, which is a drop of less than 10%
  • Reverse dipping, in which blood pressure is higher during sleep than during waking hours

All three types of abnormal dips in blood pressure are associated with various health risks. They can affect the arteries and heart, kidneys, blood sugar levels, and more.

The only way to know how your blood pressure changes is to measure it regularly at different times across the day and night. One way to do this is with ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM).

This technique involves wearing a blood pressure cuff like the one your healthcare provider uses in their office. You use it for a specified period of time, usually 24 or 48 hours. The cuff is linked to a small monitor that can be attached to a belt or an item of clothing. The device automatically takes your blood pressure every 15 or 30 minutes.

ABPM measures blood pressure during sleep as well as during waking hours. For this reason, it can be a useful way to find out what kind of dip, if any, someone tends to have at night.

Advantages of Medicating at Night

Quite a few studies have found blood pressure drugs may work best when taken at night or, for people who work night shifts, before bedtime.

The biggest and most significant of these is the Hygia Chronotherapy Trial. It is a six-year study of more than 19,000 people with high blood pressure.

The researchers divided the participants into two groups. One group took their blood pressure medication in the morning. The other took their drugs at night. At least once a year, all of the people used ABPM to record their blood pressures.

The researchers found that when compared to the morning group, those who took their blood pressure drugs at night had a lower risk of getting (or dying from) a number of conditions. For example, the results suggested:

  • The risk of stroke was lower by 49%.
  • The risk of heart attack was lower by 44%.
  • The risk of heart failure was lower by 42%.

A 2015 study in the journal Diabetologia found that taking these drugs at night reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes in people with high blood pressure. The potential benefits led the American Diabetes Association to state in their Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes that healthcare providers should tell people to take blood pressure drugs at night.

Recap

Your blood pressure changes throughout the day. It rises when you first wake up, with dips during the day. Some of these patterns are linked to health risks.

Research on chronotherapy has found some compelling evidence for taking blood pressure medication at night. Doing so may reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Other studies report possible advantages of taking blood pressure drugs at night. One is that many people are more likely to take their medication before bed rather than in the morning. Another is that the effects of blood pressure drugs taken at night tend to wear off more slowly than when people take them in the morning.

None of this is to say you should never take your blood pressure medication in the morning. In fact, this might be better if you take diuretics. They work by helping the kidneys to get rid of excess fluid in the body.

This means they can cause you to urinate more, which may mean more trips to the bathroom at night. It's sometimes best to take them in the morning.

Always take any medication according to your healthcare provider's instructions. If you take your blood pressure medication in the morning, do not start taking it at night without talking to your healthcare provider first.

Summary

For some time, people have been told to take blood pressure drugs in the morning, when blood pressure tends to surge. The morning hours are also when heart attack, stroke, and other emergencies associated with high blood pressure tend to happen.

There's growing evidence, though, that it may be best to take it at at night, before sleep. Studies have found that this timing may reduce the risk of developing some serious health conditions, like heart failure. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider about possible benefits of taking your blood pressure drugs at night.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Hermida RC, Crespo JJ, Domínguez-Sardiña M, et al. Bedtime hypertension treatment improves cardiovascular risk reduction: the Hygia Chronotherapy TrialEur Heart J. 2020;41(48):4565-4576. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehz754

  3. Rutter MK. Night-time blood pressure: a role in the prediction and prevention of diabetes?. Diabetologia. 2016;59(2):234-6. doi:10.1007/s00125-015-3749-7

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