A shortage of nightly Z’s has been linked to depression and weight gain, and now a new study has found that insomnia may also increase the risk of heart attacks.
Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology tracked 52,610 men and women who enrolled in a national health survey between 1995 and 1997. During the 11-year follow-up period, 2,386 of the participants had a myocardial infarction (heart attack). After adjusting for heart attack risk factors—age, sex, marital status, education, shift work, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, body mass index, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption—researchers found that the study participants who reported that they had insomnia had more heart attacks than those who got regular shuteye.
• Participants who had trouble falling asleep most nights had a 45 percent higher risk for heart attacks
• Participants who had trouble staying asleep most nights had a 30 percent higher risk
• Participants who woke up feeling unrefreshed more than once a week had a 27 percent higher risk
The study, which was published in the October 2011 issue of the journal Circulation, was also the subject of an editorial in the same issue.
“Although sleep disturbances have not been identified as specific targets in current cardiovascular prevention guidelines, research over the last decade provides increasing evidence that poor sleep and sleep disorders significantly contribute to the development of heart disease,” wrote Susan Redline, MD, and JoAnne Foody, MD, in the editorial “Sleep Disturbances: Time to Join the Top 10 Potentially Modifiable Cardiovascular Risk Factors?”
The Norwegian study “provides further evidence supporting the importance of sleep disorders in the pathogenesis of coronary artery disease,” they added. “Furthermore, because of their prevalence, sleep disturbances ranging from sleep apnea to sleep curtailment may serve as important novel targets for cardiovascular disease risk reduction.”
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