A lack of sleep has been linked to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attack in the past. A recent study has now found an association between insomnia and heart failure, a disease that is already affecting over six million people in the country. The study involved over 54,000 people ranging in age from 20 to 89 years old. All members of the test group were participants in a large-scale health study in Norway at the time, with none displaying any history or symptoms of heart disease.
The researchers collected data on the participants’ quality and patterns of sleep, screening them on questions such as their difficulty falling or staying asleep and feeling tired the next day. Other information regarding their health (such as risk factors for heart failure) was gathered before observing the group for 11 years. In that time, more than 1,400 people developed heart disease; when taking other risk factors (age, blood pressure, substance use, cholesterol, etc.) into account, the researchers found insomnia to be the most common association. The results revealed that not only were the members of the test group who experienced insomnia symptoms at a higher risk of heart failure than the non-insomnia group, but the risk increased for those who had multiple symptoms.
The people who displayed all three symptoms of insomnia (difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep and non-restorative/unproductive sleep) were found to be more than three times at risk of developing heart problems, being significantly higher than those with one or two symptoms of insomnia.
Other studies and possible causes
The Norwegian study was not the only one to find a correlation between insomnia and poor heart health, with other studies finding people whom experienced less than 6 hours of sleep to be at a 45 percent higher risk of suffering a heart attack and 15 percent more likely to have a stroke. Other studies have found a correlation between obstructive sleep apnea and an elevated risk of heart failure, coronary heart disease or stroke, with sleep disordered breathing (which commonly manifests as snoring) being associated as well.
Although no studies have found any causal evidence yet, possible reasons include poor sleep’s ability to raise blood pressure. One study has shown that people with insufficient or disrupted sleep had higher blood pressure levels, a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke and heart failure. Other possible reasons include calcium build-up as well as inflammation and central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction.
A possible scenario is that a lack of sleep, being a time to process thoughts and memories from the day, is inhibiting the autonomic nervous system’s (in the medulla oblongata, located in the lower brain stem) ability to regulate heart rhythm. The lower immune system function resulting from lack of sleep may also be causing inflammation of the arteries that can lead to heart attack.
Insomnia is very common in those whom suffer from anxiety and depression as well as with substance abuse, making heart disease another possible hurdle for those seeking recovery. Sovereign Health’s team of healthcare professionals is mindful of this risk, employing a holistic approach to treating insomnia that involves medication and psychotherapy in addition to alternative therapeutic techniques such as yoga/meditation and creative arts groups. If you would like more information regarding Sovereign’s approach to anxiety and depression or insomnia treatment, feel free to browse the reviews section of our site or contact us today.
Written by Chase Beckwith, Sovereign Health Group writer