How insomnia can increase your chances of a heart attack

Findings highlight importance of prioritising sleep to get seven to eight hours of rest a night

Vishwam Sankaran
Monday 06 March 2023 09:58 GMT
Tips for Overcoming Problems With Falling Asleep

People with insomnia are about 70 per cent more likely to have a heart attack compared to those without the sleep disorder over an average nine-year follow-up period, according to a new study.

The research, which is set to be published in the journal Clinical Cardiology, also found that heart attacks occurred more often in women with sleep disorders that include trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting good-quality sleep.

Individuals who sleep for five or fewer hours per night have the highest risk of heart attack, according to the study, presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session.

“Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, but in many ways, it’s no longer just an illness, it’s more of a life choice. We just don’t prioritize sleep as much as we should,” study author Yomna E. Dean from the Alexandria University in Egypt said.

“Our study showed that people with insomnia are more likely to have a heart attack regardless of age, and heart attacks occurred more often in women with insomnia,” she added.

Researchers warn that the sleep disorder is growing in prevalence, affecting about 10 to 30 per cent of American adults, adding that people with both diabetes and insomnia face a twofold likelihood of having a heart attack.

In the study, scientists conducted a systematic review of published research, yielding 1,226 studies that included data from 1,184,256 adults – 43 per cent of whom were women.

Heart attacks were observed in about 2,400 individuals who had insomnia, and 12,398 of those in the non-insomnia group, researchers say.

Scientists found that there was a statistically significant association between insomnia and having a heart attack after controlling for other factors like age, gender, comorbidities, and smoking.

They say the link between insomnia and heart attack remained significant across all subgroups of patients, including younger and older age, and across follow-up duration.

People with insomnia were also found to have high blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes, as well as an even higher risk of having a heart attack than those who didn’t, the study noted.

Trouble falling or staying asleep were also linked to a 13 per cent increased likelihood of heart attack compared with those without these symptoms.

The findings highlight the importance of prioritising sleep so that people get seven to eight hours of quality sleep a night.

While the study has some limitations, including that most participants self-reported their sleep behaviors in questionnaires, the heart attacks they reported were however validated by medical reports.

“Practice good sleep hygiene; the room should be dark, quiet, and on the cooler side, and put away devices. Do something that is calming to wind down, and if you have tried all these things and still can’t sleep or are sleeping less than five hours, talk with your doctor,” Ms Dean added.

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