Insomnia: Risk Factor for Heart Attack

Insomnia can contribute as a risk factor for heart attack, according to a new research conducted on 1.2 million participants across the globe.

According to a​ recent review published in Clinical Cardiology the link between insomnia & the risk of a heart attack was examined. Surprisingly, the review found that people with insomnia were a whopping 69% more likely to experience heart attacks. Looking at these findings, researchers strongly suggest that insomnia should not be ignored & it should be addressed as an essential heart attack risk factor.

What is Insomnia ?

Insomnia involves having trouble in falling asleep or even staying asleep. Chronic insomnia occurs when the problem lasts for a period of three consecutive months or more. Several factors can increase the risk for insomnia, such as high-stress levels or chronic pain.

W​hen people don’t get adequate sleep, they open the door for a range of health issues ranging from minor to serious ones.

“Insomnia is associated with impairment in quality of everyday life ranging from fatigue, sleepiness, mood swings, increased absenteeism, lack of concentration & decreased cognitive function. There are studies to prove that insomnia is associated with serious health issues too. Prolonged insomnia has a tendency to act as a cardiovascular and metabolic risk factor & can induce high blood pressure, heart attack & diabetes.”

Sleep is vital to help the body repair itself. One should get at least 7 hours of sleep each night which can help your body recover and allows your body to function at its normal best pace the following day. Regular, consistent sleep patterns also help to regulate blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar levels, as well as weight. All the preceding health issues are linked to heart disease such as heart attack & stroke, so taking plenty of sleep & regulating these risk factors can be of much help.

Insomnia & cardiovascular risk

This study involved a systematic review & meta-analysis which looked at the association between insomnia & the incidence of heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction (MI). It involved conducting controlled observational studies about heart attacks in people aged eighteen or older.

Researchers included nine studies in their research, including 153,881 people with insomnia & 1,030,375 people who did not had it. Most participants(96%) didn’t have a prior history of heart attacks. Studies came from six different countries, which provided diversity in data collection.

T​he results of the study concluded that people with insomnia were at a significantly higher risk for heart attack than people who did not. The percentage was rather high, a huge 69% more risk for heart attack if you have insomnia.

The next finding of the study was related to the number of sleep hours. It said that getting five or fewer hours of sleep at night was associated with a much higher risk for heart attack than getting seven to eight hours of sleep. People who got five or fewer hours of sleep every night were 56% more likely to experience a heart attack than those who got between seven & eight hours of sleep at night.

Another finding of this study was that the risk for heart attack was higher among females who didn’t take adequate sleep.

Surprisingly, the amount of sleep & not the quality of sleep, was a more relevant risk factor.

The results indicate that insomnia is indeed a serious risk factor that all adults should take seriously.

People should be educated about the importance of sleep & good sleep should be incorporated into primary cardiovascular prevention guidelines.

Researchers concluded from their 9 year long study that people should treat consistent inadequate sleep just as another risk factor for heart attack. With this in mind, people can take it seriously & can take steps to take adequate sleep seriously and thus lower their heart attack risk.

It’s quite easy to treat insomnia as it is more of a lifestyle choice rather than an illness. People need to prioritize sleep as an important priority task for their overall wellness.

Further research on Insomnia & heart attack

T​his particular review conducted had certain limitations. More research work is needed. First, there was significant variation between the studies in the review. For example, there was variation between sample sizes & study length.

Second, most of the studies relied on data from questionnaires, which has a tendency to increase the risk of bias or errors.

More research work is needed to:

  • Investigate the relationship between duration of insomnia & subsequent risk of MI.
  • Investigate whether being an insomniac for long durations result in higher risk?
  • Find out what is the minimum duration of disease i.e., insomnia that results in an increased risk of MI?.
  • Would prior heart attacks result in a higher risk of heart attack recurrence among insomniacs compared to insomniacs who didn’t suffer from heart attacks before?
  • how the sleep disorder insomnia increases the risk for other health problems?

How to fall asleep faster ?

People with sleep issues can try some simple, small things to fall asleep faster:

  1. People with sleep issues should never take it as a pressure to go to sleep on time. This will raise anxiety which will woo away sleep. Certain sleep promoting small activities can be tried instead.
  2. Make your bedroom as your sleep room only. Do not take work there. Make your bedroom comfortable before you try to sleep like the right temperature.
  3. Do not use addicting social media at bed time. Instead try something like reading a book. People who are fond of writing can write about their day. They can write about the things to do for tomorrow. This will set a sleep time in your mind.
  4. People who have sleep issues should avoid day naps & should instead go for exercise.
  5. Set on a sleep awake schedule & follow it religiously & eventually your body would set it as its own circadian rhythm.
  6. You should try meditation before bed. Meditation has been proven to raise the melatonin levels.
  7. You can try sleep supplements like magnesium & melatonin to set your sleep schedule in the beginning.
  8. Lastly, you should put on a low volume relaxing music of your choice. This can also help to evade any background noises, instead it will be a more consistent environment.

FAQ(Frequently asked questions)

Can lack of sleep raise blood pressure ?

People who sleep for only six hours or less may have steeper increases in blood pressure.

How does magnesium help to fall asleep ?

It regulates the particular neurotransmitters & the hormone melatonin, both of which are involved in the wake sleep cycle.

How much sleep do I need ?

It is advised to take a minimum 7 hours of sleep each night. It’s ok to have less for a day or so, however lack of sleep should never ever be prolonged.

What can lack of sleep do to your brain ?

Sleep deprivation can over-stimulate certain parts of brain & can even lead to permanent brain damage.

My name is Amanpreet Kaur Samra. M.S. Biochemistry. I'm the founder and writer of this blog. I have been teaching Biochemistry for a good number of years. I started this blog because I have always been very passionate about writing, in particular about Nutrition and Healthy Weight Loss.

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