Insomnia may raise risk of heart attack, stroke

November 5, 2012 by Barbara Bronson Gray, Healthday Reporter
Insomnia may raise risk of heart attack, stroke
Early study adds to evidence supporting sleep's importance in preventing disease.

(HealthDay)—People with insomnia may have double the chances of a heart attack or stroke as opposed to those who sleep well, a study by Taiwanese researchers suggests.

The finding adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests that having trouble sleeping can make you sick.

It has long been understood that health issues and sleep are often interrelated. Many studies have suggested sleep problems can cause or contribute to such physical and mental conditions as obesity, depression, and even in students who burn the midnight oil.

It can also go the other way, with health issues themselves—such as pain, heartburn, hyperthyroidism, and anxiety— causing insomnia.

"We know that things that contribute to insomnia can increase —issues like diabetes and even stress itself," said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, in Los Angeles. "We've seen studies about that show, for example, there can be large tied to wake-sleep cycles."

For the new study, led by Dr. Chien-Yi Hsu at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital, the researchers used a nationwide heath database of 2 million people. After taking out those with depression, anxiety, , and substance abuse, the authors identified nearly 11,000 people aged 45 or older who suffered from insomnia, and more than 32,000 people who did not.

After about four years of following these participants, the researchers found that 1.6 percent of those who suffered from insomnia experienced a heart attack, while among those who slept well, only 0.76 percent had a heart attack.

While 11.2 percent of insomnia sufferers had a stroke, 6.5 percent of those without insomnia had a stroke.

The researchers concluded that insomnia was associated with an increased risk of future , such as heart attack and stroke.

The study is scheduled to be presented Sunday at an American Heart Association scientific meeting, in Los Angeles.

"It's an interesting finding and builds upon prior research demonstrating increased risk for heart attack associated with insomnia of this order of magnitude," Fonarow said. "This study adds new information, that there's a strong relationship with stroke as well."

But Fonarow said the study doesn't suggest clinicians should be more aggressive in treating insomnia. "Working to treat insomnia is good for quality of life but it's too soon to say treating insomnia will decrease your chance of [developing] heart disease."

Dr. Aparajitha Verma, medical director of the Methodist Hospital Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Program, in Houston, said she is concerned that the researchers didn't distinguish between different types of insomnia, which can make a difference in understanding the possible association with cardiovascular disease.

"We don't know whether these people didn't sleep long enough or had fragmented sleep, or difficulty falling asleep. When they clump everyone together as [having] insomnia, they also don't say how many may have had sleep apnea, which is very closely associated with increased risk of coronary vascular disease," Verma said.

While scientists don't fully understand why sleep deprivation can have such a profound impact on cardiovascular disease, it is thought that it could be that the lack of sleep weakens the immune systems, triggering an "inflammatory cascade," Verma explained.

Her advice? "People have to make sleep a priority," she said.

While the study found an association between and heart attack risk, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Explore further: Insomnia could moderately raise your heart attack risk

More information: Learn more about sleep disorders from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Related Stories

Insomnia could moderately raise your heart attack risk

October 24, 2011
Having trouble sleeping? If so, you could have a moderately higher risk of having a heart attack, according to research reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.