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Insomnia Increases Risk of Heart Diseases, Stroke

Insomnia Increases Risk of Heart Diseases, Stroke

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  • Sleep is an important process essential for biological recovery and good sleep is an indicator of overall health and well-being.
  • Insomnia is a known risk factor for poor health outcomes including metabolic and endocrine abnormalities, raised blood pressure, depression and elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines
  • The insomnia symptoms of difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep and non-restorative sleep increases risk of future cardiovascular and cerebro-vascular events.

"The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep"- W.C. Fields

A good night's sleep is essential for overall health and well-being.

A recent meta-analysis has assessed an association between insomnia and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.


Insomnia is one of the main sleep disorders. It is characterized by difficulty in falling asleep or maintaining good sleep. As a consequence, it leaves the person feeling tired and dull.

In modern society, insomnia is considered a common problem among adults.

Insomnia is the most prevalent of all sleep disorders and is believed to affect anywhere from 30% -50% of all people at some point in their lifetime. The prevalence of insomnia increases with age, with 40% -60% of all individuals above the age of 60 suffering from the disorder.

Insomnia has been associated with a number of health complications like metabolic abnormalities, elevated inflammation markers and depression and can also increase the incidence of some chronic diseases such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Good sleep is vital for biological recovery function.

"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," said first author Qiao He, a Master's degree student at China Medical University, Shenyang, China. "For example, it is reported that approximately one-third of the general population in Germany has suffered from insomnia symptoms."

"Researchers have found associations between insomnia and poor health outcomes," continued Miss He. "But the links between insomnia and heart disease or stroke have been inconsistent."


For the study, authors analyzed 15 prospective cohort studies that included 160,867 participants.

They assessed the association between insomnia symptoms and incidence of or death from cardiovascular events like acute myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease, heart failure and cerebro-vascular events like stroke, or a combination of events.

Symptoms of insomnia included:
  • difficulty initiating sleep- difficulty falling asleep
  • difficulty maintaining sleep- having problems sleeping through the night
  • non-restorative sleep- that leaves the subject feeling tired and dull
  • early-morning awakening- waking up very early
There were 11,702 adverse events during a median follow-up of three to 29.6 years.

In people suffering from insomnia, the associations between symptoms of insomnia like difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, non-restorative sleep and the risk of heart disease and stroke, were significant compared to those not experiencing these insomnia symptoms.

There was no association between early-morning awakening and adverse events.

Miss He said "We found that difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, or non-restorative sleep were associated with 27%, 11%, and 18% higher risks of cardiovascular and stroke events, respectively."

"The underlying mechanisms for these links are not completely understood," continued Miss He. "Previous studies have shown that insomnia may change metabolism and endocrine function, increase sympathetic activation, raise blood pressure, and elevate levels of pro-inflammatory and inflammatory cytokines - all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke." Miss He added.

Insomnia may increase the risk of cardio-cerebral vascular events by triggering abnormal metabolism or endocrine function, raising blood pressure or via elevating levels of pro-inflammatory and inflammation cytokines.

However, the underlying mechanisms need further evaluation.

Compared to men, women with insomnia symptoms had a slightly higher risk of cardiovascular and stroke events than men, especially for non-restorative sleep. This maybe due to differences in genetics, sex hormones, stress, and reaction to stress.

Miss He said "We cannot conclude that insomnia is more dangerous for women, given the limitations of meta-analyses and the lack of a statistically significant difference between sexes. However, we do know that women are more prone to insomnia because of differences in genetics, sex hormones, stress, and reaction to stress. It may therefore be prudent to pay more attention to women's sleep health."

Miss He concluded "Sleep disorders are common in the general population and sleep health should be included in clinical risk assessment. Health education is needed to increase public awareness of insomnia symptoms and the potential risks, so that people with sleep problems are encouraged to seek help."

The study is published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

References :
  1. Qiao He et al. The association between insomnia symptoms and risk of cardio-cerebral vascular events: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology; (2017) doi/full/10.1177/2047487317702043
  2. Insomnia - (https://medlineplus.gov/insomnia.html)
  3. What is Insomnia? - (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/inso)
Source: Medindia

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