Blood pressure regulation VII. The "morning surge" in blood pressure: Measurement issues and clinical significance

Greg Atkinson, Alan M. Batterham, Kazuomi Kario, Chloe E. Taylor, Helen Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


In keeping with this review-series theme, we question whether the morning surge in blood pressure (MSBP) is a benign response to the physiological challenges during the first 3 h after waking, or is it clinically important? Therefore, we scrutinise the circadian-related mechanisms, the measurement methods and the prognostic value of the MSBP. The MSBP is relatively small (<2 mmHg) under constant routine conditions. Nevertheless, the blood pressure response to exercise can be 8-14 mm Hg greater in the morning vs. afternoon, even when prior sleep is controlled. Systematic bias between MSBP methods can be >10 mmHg. The "sleep-trough" method provides the largest MSBP (≈25 mmHg), but the sensitivity of MSBP to a treatment/intervention depends largely on its repeatability. The repeatability standard deviation (SD) for most MSBP methods is ≈8 mm Hg. While the magnitude of this SD precludes the use of MSBP for diagnostic decisions on individual patients, sample sizes for future intervention studies may be feasible, depending on the minimal clinically important difference in MSBP. This difference is somewhat unclear given that a large MSBP has recently been reported to predict a reduced, rather than a higher, risk of cardiovascular disease, although this particular study has been criticised. The MSBP is also naturally correlated to changes in physical activity and nocturnal "dipping" status. Therefore, it is important to account for these potential confounders of the MSBP, so that more precise knowledge about its clinical significance is gained, thereby providing a sound rationale for physiological investigation and translational research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-529
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014


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