Insomnia as a Risk Factor for Heart Disease

Heart disease and sleeping pills are one of those combinations that can come with a potential risk. Although insomnia is frequent among the healthy population, around 20% of medical patients are also struggling with it. Among medical patients, the group that struggles the most with sleep are cardiac patients; approximately 44% of them are dealing with insomnia. It appears that this relationship goes both ways since insomnia is recognized as one of the risks for coronary and cardiovascular diseases.

Insomnia in Patients With Heart Failure

The symptoms of insomnia are pretty common in patients with heart failure, particularly, and there are many reasons that justify that. This disease is very stressful; hence, many patients develop disease-related anxiety or depression, which then leads to sleepless nights. Also, certain medications that are a part of therapy can be sleep disruptors or Cheyne-Stokes respiration.

The largest study that examined the relationship between incident heart failure and insomnia was the Nord-Trondelag Health Study, in which the health of 54,279 Norwegian men and women was followed for 13 years. At the beginning of the study, the were all free of known heart failure, but during the years, incident heart failure was linked to symptoms of insomnia.

Insomnia in Patients With Cardiovascular Disease

The relationship between lack of sleep and cardiovascular diseases is still not fully understood. However, there are some aspects of this connection that we can explain. Patients with insomnia have increased cortisol production and adrenocorticotropic hormone, which is suggesting that there is a higher activity of the HPA axis.

Chronic dysregulation or activation of the HPA axis is potentially dangerous because it brings a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, but also for diabetes, insulin resistance, depression, and anxiety. It is known that insomnia can also lead to diabetes, so in this case, it can even be a mediator on the pathway to cardiovascular disease.

Insomnia in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease

Patients with coronary heart disease are at high risk of insomnia; approximately one-third of all patients with initial acute coronary syndrome claims to have the symptoms. A large population-based study conducted in Taiwan included 22,040 people who were diagnosed with insomnia and the same number of people who were not insomniacs.

For ten years, researchers followed participants for stroke or acute myocardial infarction. The results were shocking. People with insomnia had a 68% higher risk chances of an accident myocardial infarction and an 85% higher risk of stroke. The data supports the thesis of insomnia as a serious risk factor for coronary heart disease.

Call to Action: Considering all the serious medical conditions that insomnia can trigger, it is essential to realize how dangerous a chronic lack of sleep can be. Talk to your physician about healthy, effective treatments for your particular sleeping disorder.

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