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Nov 21, 2011

Insomnia Increases Risk for Heart Attack

A must-read for anyone who has difficulty sleeping.

Insomnia, a feeling of having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, is extremely common among industrialized nations, affecting nearly one-third of the general population. Not only can insomnia go hand in hand with stress and depression, a lack of sleep can exacerbate these conditions, taking a toll on the body.  Consequently, many wonder what toll insomnia can take on the heart and risk for heart disease.

Despite inconsistent findings throughout the years, a recent study published in Circulation demonstrated that insomnia is, in fact, associated with increased risk for heart attack. With more than 52,000 study participants, this research study is among the largest and most reliable of its kind. Researchers followed participants for more than 11 years, tracking cardiovascular health and sleeping habits. They found that not only does insomnia increase risk for heart attack by as much as 45%, more serious insomnia is associated with greater heart attack risk. Therefore, individuals experiencing insomnia every night are at greater risk for heart attack than those experiencing insomnia only a few nights a week.

Fortunately, although insomnia is a common condition, it is also easily recognizable and possible to treat effectively. Therefore, with additional research, recognizing and treating insomnia may also help prevent cardiovascular disease and improve heart health in individuals.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is insomnia?

  • Insomnia is defined as a subjective feeling of having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night, or having a feeling of nonrestorative sleep. Individuals having difficulty falling or staying asleep and/or feeling exhausted in the morning despite ample sleep should discuss these concerns with a doctor.
  • How is insomnia treated?

  • Treatment for insomnia often begins with a review of any drugs or medical conditions that may cause the condition, along with any lifestyle or sleeping habits that may further disrupt quality sleep. Once these issues are reviewed, doctors may prescribe sleeping pills or sedatives, or adjust doses of medication that may be interrupting sleep.

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