Research Finds Insomnia Associated With Higher Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

Existing research demonstrates that people who suffer from insomnia likely at risk for poor health outcomes, suggesting that there might also be a link to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

According to lead study author Qiao He, “Sleep is important for biological recovery and takes around a third of our lifetime, but in modern society more and more people complain of insomnia.” The China Medical University graduate student from Shenyang, China, goes on to say, “For example, it is reported that approximately one-third of the general population in Germany has suffered from insomnia symptoms.”

She also notes that the study researchers have found various associations between insomnia and poor health outcomes. Unfortunately, though, the links they have found between insomnia and heart disease or between insomnia and stroke have been largely inconsistent.

In the study of more than 160,800 people, the researchers looked at the potential association between symptoms of insomnia and incidence of death from cardiovascular diseases or stroke. In this case, symptoms of insomnia include: difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, premature awakening, and non-restorative sleep (poor sleep quality). Respectively, the term cardiovascular disease can relate to various conditions including: acute myocardial infarction or coronary heart disease or heart failure.

He makes sure to note that past studies have been able to show insomnia can have an effect on metabolism and endocrine function and can also increase sympathetic activation, increase blood pressure levels, and also increase levels of both proinflammatory and inflammatory cytokines. All of these are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The results seem to demonstrate that difficulty falling sleep resulted in approximately 27 percent higher risk, difficulty staying asleep resulted in 11 percent higher risk, and poor sleep quality resulted in 18 percent higher risk for heart disease, compared against those who had not experienced any of these symptoms of insomnia.

Uniquely, the studies were not able to prove an association between early morning waking and higher risk for these conditions.
He also makes sure to note that women appear to be more prone to insomnia primarily out of variations in genetics, sex hormones, and stress (and reaction to various stressors), intimating that we should pay more attention to female sleep habits (as a culture, essentially) and encourage those who do experience sleep problems to seek help.

The results of this study have been published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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