Insomnia May Raise Heart Attack Risk

November 12, 2012

Insomnia May Raise Heart Attack Risk

Study Indicates that Insomnia Increases your chances of having a Heart Attack

If you have insomnia or have difficulty feeling that you have had a good night’s sleep then you should be aware that a new study has found that you and people like you appear to have an increased risk of heart attacks. Previous research has already found that there is an association between chronic insomnia and depression and anxiety.

The study was large scale, about 50,000 participants in Norway were surveyed on behalf of the National Sleep Foundation, and its findings have recently been published. The research was carried out by researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The reports found that insomnia sufferers had a higher incidence of heart attack and the risk rose in line with increased symptoms. The people with the most symptoms had the highest amount of risk of having a heart attack.

Because insomnia is common and generally an easy ailment to treat, a study researcher, Lars Erik Laugsand, MD says that an awareness of the risks of untreated insomnia is important to have. He expands further, “If the association is confirmed, addressing sleep problems could prove to be an important intervention to lower heart attack risk. Insomnia is quite common and it is fairly easy to treat. People need to be aware of this potential connection”.

He also points out that if we are to substantiate the study’s findings then further work will need to be carried out with the aim of understanding how the heart may be affected if the person suffers from sleep deprivation.

The Association between Poor Sleep and Heart Attacks

The National Sleep Foundation found that about 63% of people who responded to their survey said that they did not get enough sleep and 43% responded that on weeknights they never or very rarely got a got a satisfactory night’s sleep.

Insomnia can affect people in different ways, sometimes it is falling to sleep that is the problem, with other people falling to sleep is easy but staying asleep is the problem. There is a third group which cannot get a restful night and do not awaken feeling restored.

Laugsand states that while some earlier studies may have indicated the association between insomnia and blood pressure only a small number of small scale studies have addressed insomnia and heart disease. This new study drew from in excess of 50,000 Norwegians between 1995 and 1997. The people were all adults and took part in a national survey about health.

The study had a follow up period of 11 years and during that period of time 2,386 people suffered their first heart attacks. As is normal practice all lifestyle factors were accounted for before calculating risks of having a heart attack. The factors included age, gender, family history, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, weight and whether the candidate smoked. After all of this the researchers found that those with insomnia had a higher incidence of heart attack than those who slept well every night.

The researchers when comparing for different types of insomnia found different risk levels for heart attack. The people who could not fall asleep for the majority of nights during the preceding month, during the period of the study were found to have a 45% increase in their risk of having a heart attack. The group who could fall asleep, but not remain asleep, had a 30% increased chance of suffering a heart attack. Those who did not wake up feeling restored and rested any more than one time in any week were found to be 27% more likely to have a heart attack.

How to Avoid Issues with the Heart

The findings have caused the researchers speculate, “Evaluation of insomnia might provide additional information in clinical risk assessment that could be useful in cardiovascular prevention”. The researchers also accept that their findings may be exclusive to the northernmost regions where winters are very dark and summers remain light.

Sleep apnea was not considered during the study and the percentage of the study group suffering from the condition is unknown. A factor commonly related to sleep apnea is obesity and obesity is known to increase the risk of heart attacks and vascular disease.

Cardiologist Edward A. Fisher, MD, PhD is a professor of cardiovascular medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, and says, “If insomnia really is associated with heart attack risk, understanding the underlying mechanism behind this could be very important”. He says that to fully understand the association between the heart and sleep of inferior quality requires further study.

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