Insomnia Increases Risk of Stroke and Heart Attack: Study
Tue, April 20, 2021

Insomnia Increases Risk of Stroke and Heart Attack: Study

Suffering from insomnia increases the chances of having a stroke or heart attack or developing heart disease among adults, according to a recently published large-scale study / Photo by: Somsak Sudthangtum via 123RF

 

Suffering from insomnia increases the chances of having a stroke or heart attack or developing heart disease among adults, according to a recently published large-scale study.

The study looked into the connection between insomnia and risks of cardiovascular diseases and results suggested that addressing sleeping complications can help reduce the number of strokes and heart attacks, among other heart illnesses.

"This is probably one of the larger studies that have been published so far on the connection between insomnia and cardiovascular risk," Natalia Rost, the chief of the stroke division at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told CNN. "While we don't understand the exact link, what we've learned over the years is that sleep is important."

 

Three Symptoms of Insomnia

Insomnia is one of the most common sleeping problems and happens more among women than in men. It is usually caused by stress, emotional or physical discomfort, medications, or other illnesses.

To determine its association with heart problems, the study looked into 487,200 people in China, who had no history of stroke or heart disease, and asked if they had indicators of insomnia that occurred at least three days a week.

These symptoms are: trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, waking up too early, or being unfocused throughout the day because of poor sleep. Results showed 11 percent of the people said they had difficulty sleeping or staying asleep while 10 percent reported they wake up too early. Only two percent said they had trouble focusing during the day because of poor sleep, stated MedicalXpress, a web-based medical and health news service that features the most comprehensive coverage in the medical field.

Insomnia is one of the most common sleeping problems and happens more among women than in men / Photo by: Nattakorn Maneerat via 123RF

 

It added that the researchers monitored the people for 10 years, in which a total of 130,032 cases of stroke, heart attack, and other similar diseases occurred. They found an 18 percent increase in developing the said diseases among people who showed all three symptoms of insomnia after adjusting for other factors such as alcohol use, smoking, and level of physical activity.

People who had all three symptoms have an increased 22 percent of developing coronary artery disease while 10 percent are more likely to have a stroke than those who don't.

"The link between insomnia symptoms and these diseases was even stronger in younger adults and people who did not have high blood pressure at the start of the study," Liming Li, author of the study from Peking University in Beijing, said in a statement. "So future research should look especially at early detection and interventions aimed at these groups."

Separate Analysis

After adjusting for the confounding factors, the researchers looked into three symptoms individually. They found that people who said they have issues with focusing throughout the day due to poor sleep were 13 percent more likely to develop heart problems.

People who reported having trouble falling and staying asleep have an increased risk at 9 percent while those who said they wake up too early have a 7 percent increased risk of having a stroke and developing heart conditions compared to those who don't have troubling sleeping.

The results of the study added to the evidence that there is a link between insomnia and cardiac problems. In 2017, a meta-analysis of 160,000 people found that people who can't sleep easily were 27 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack or a stroke, according to CNN.

It added that the 2017 study also found a connection between trouble staying asleep and heart issues, although it failed to establish a connection with waking up too early. Early works also suggested that poor quality of sleep can alter hormone function, elevate inflammatory processes, or change metabolism.

People who reported having trouble falling and staying asleep have an increased risk at 9 percent while those who said they wake up too early have a 7 percent increased risk of having a stroke and developing heart conditions / Photo by: Andrea De Martin via 123RF

 

While the study showed the association between insomnia symptoms and heart problems, science remains unsure of such a connection.

"I always think that there are probably more facets to the story than just one link," Rost, who was not involved in the study, told the news agency. "Maybe it's the repair of vessels that we hear more and more about during sleep."

The hospital executive believed that insomnia could be a symptom of another disease within the body that isn't symptomatic yet and that the sleeping condition could affect something that could already be "brewing in the body," which may ultimately manifest years later. "Hopefully, more research will figure the association out," Rost said.
While symptoms of the sleeping condition are easy to tell, some could mistake them for having insomnia if they were to self-diagnose and not seek the opinion of their healthcare provider. This was one of the flaws of the recent study; having the participants self-report the symptoms of insomnia, which may have led to inaccurate information.

Another limitation is that the researchers did not ask the participants if they feel tired upon waking, which is another symptom of insomnia. With these restrictions, more work is needed to determine the association between insomnia and heart problems.