Insomnia May Increase the Risks of Heart Attack and Stroke

Fagjun | Published 2017-04-13 08:37

How does a lack of sleep affect your heart and health?

Bad news for insomniacs—insomnia not only makes you feel tired all day, it can also increase your risks of heart attack and stroke.

Insomnia, a common sleep disorder, is the inability to easily fall asleep and stay asleep. This disorder may also make you feel exhausted even if you've only woken up. Thus, insomnia can affect your everyday life as well as your health.

There are two kinds of insomnia: acute and chronic. Acute insomnia is when a person experiences sleeplessness for days or weeks. Things like stress or traumatic events can cause acute insomnia.

Chronic insomnia, meanwhile, can last for a month or more. Medical conditions or medications may cause chronic insomnia, but insomnia may be the problem itself.

The Risks of Heart Attack and Stroke, In Numbers

Scientists have long known that not getting enough sleep can cause health problems. However, the link between insomnia, heart disease, and stroke has been unclear. Through an analysis of 15 studies, researchers were able to discern the connection between insomnia and the risks of heart attack and stroke.

These 15 studies had a total of 160,867 participants. The research team noted 11,702 adverse events during a median follow-up between three to 29.6 years.

The team was also able to identify how much each insomnia symptom increases the risks of heart attack and stroke. Difficulty falling asleep increases these risks by 27%. Difficulty staying asleep, meanwhile, increases the risks by 11%. Non-restorative sleep, or sleep that leaves you feeling tired when you wake up, increases the risks by 18%.

However, it's still unclear why insomnia increases the risks of heart attack and stroke. There have been other studies on the effects of insomnia on the endocrine system and blood pressure. An altered endocrine function and high blood pressure are known to be risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

Men vs Women

The risks are also different for men and women. Generally, female insomniacs have a slightly higher risk of suffering heart attacks and stroke than males do. If a woman suffers from insomnia in the form of non-restorative sleep, she'll have even higher risks. Worse, women are also more prone to developing insomnia due to hormonal factors.

Even so, the researchers do not claim that insomnia is more dangerous for women than for men. The difference between the two sexes isn't significant enough for researchers to make this claim. However, they do say that there should be more attention on improving women's sleep health.

The researchers also say that insomnia is a matter of public health, since it increases the risks of heart attack and stroke. There should be more awareness about the symptoms of insomnia and how to treat it. This way, people will take the initiative to overcome insomnia symptoms and lower their risks for cardiovascular disease.

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