Heart failure and heart attack risk increases in people with insomnia: Study

By: Emily Lunardo | Heart Health | Thursday, October 06, 2016 - 12:00 PM

Heart failure and heart attack risk increases in people with insomnia: StudyHeart failure and heart attack risk increases in people with insomnia. The study followed 54,279 people aged 20 to 89 years for over 11 years. The researchers found that insomnia sufferers had a three times higher risk of heart failure and heart attack risk compared to those without the symptoms of sleep disorder.

Researcher Dr. Lars Laugsand explained, “We related heart failure risk to three major insomnia symptoms including trouble falling asleep, problems staying asleep, and not waking up feeling refreshed in the morning. In our study, we found that persons suffering from insomnia have increased risk of having heart failure. Those reporting suffering from all three insomnia symptoms simultaneously were at considerably higher risk than those who had no symptoms or only one or two symptoms.”

“We do not know whether heart failure is really caused by insomnia, but if it is, insomnia is a potentially treatable condition using strategies such as following simple recommendations concerning sleeping habits (often referred to as sleep hygiene), and several psychological and pharmacological therapies. Evaluation of sleep problems might provide additional information that could be used in prevention of heart failure,” he continued.

Dr. Laugsand stressed that additional research is required to explore the association between insomnia and heart failure or heart attack. “It is still unclear why insomnia is linked to higher heart failure risk. We have some indications that there might be a biological cause, and one possible explanation could be that insomnia activates stress responses in the body that might negatively affect heart function. However, further research is also needed to find the possible mechanisms for this association.”

Participants of the study were asked about their sleeping habits. After adjusting for other factors that could affect the results, the researchers found that having trouble falling asleep or not experiencing restorative sleep was associated with a higher risk of heart failure. Furthermore, the more symptoms of insomnia a person experienced, the greater the risk for their heart.

The authors wrote in conclusion, “We found a moderate risk increase related to the individual insomnia symptoms. However, the risk among those with all the three insomnia symptoms simultaneously was particularly high even after adjustment for established cardiovascular risk factors and psychological distress. This finding may be interpreted as suggesting that compromising some aspects of sleep may be somehow compensated for, and the net effect on cardiovascular disease may be limited. For example, having difficulty falling asleep might be compensated for by a satisfactory depth and a good continuity of sleep. However, if the initiation of sleep is poor and combined with repeated awakenings and superficial sleep, there may not be any compensatory mechanisms.”

Lack of sleep increases the risk of heart disease

Lack of sleep can greatly increase your risk of heart disease. Shocked? You shouldn’t be, as insufficient sleep has been linked to a number of serious health problems. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that the lack of sleep is as harmful as smoking and even prolonged sitting.

In the latest study, 657 men from Russia were observed closely to monitor their quality of sleep and their risk of heart disease. Over the course of 14 years, cases of heart attack and stroke were recorded from the participants.

The researchers uncovered that those men who reported incidences of sleep disorder had an increased risk of a heart attack – up to 2.6 times higher than those who had no sleeping problems.

Additionally, the risk of stroke increased fourfold in comparison to men without a sleep disorder.

Because heart disease, in particular, is one of the leading causes of death around the world, these findings are quite useful. Understanding the sleep and heart disease connection can then help us find means to improve heart health and reduce our risk of developing heart disease. The take-home message here is, heart health starts with a solid good night’s rest.

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