Insomnia: From Stroke to Heart Attack

INSOMNIA afflicts up to one in ten Brits at any given time, research shows.

And the sleep disorder that keeps people awake for hours has deadly complications.

Insomnia complicates daily living and can accumulate to increase the risk of fatal complications


Insomnia complicates daily living and can accumulate to increase the risk of fatal complications

Insomnia is usually divided into three main types – acute, chronic and transient.

Temporary insomnia lasts less than a week and is typically caused by something like stress, while acute insomnia usually lasts a few weeks and is triggered by a serious event like bereavement.

Chronic insomnia is less common and occurs when someone has trouble sleeping at least three times a week for a period of one to three months.

About a third of adults in Western countries experience trouble sleeping at least once a week, with up to 10 percent meeting criteria for an insomnia disorder, says NICE.

The dangers of living with insomnia have been demonstrated time and time again in research.

Over time, lack of sleep can make it harder for people to lead healthy lives because they are less motivated to eat enough nutritious food or exercise.

But it also appears to cause changes in the body’s physiology, such as by raising blood pressure and blood sugar levels…

heart problems

Insomnia has been linked to developing a heart problem.

People with a genetic predisposition to insomnia have a higher risk of coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke, according to a study published in 2019 by the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

And another Chinese study, published in the journal Neurology, found that people with all three symptoms of insomnia were 18 percent more likely to suffer a stroke or heart disease than those without symptoms.

The 487,000 patients surveyed had problems falling asleep and staying asleep, waking up too early or lack of concentration during the day due to poor sleep.

The risks don’t stop there, as a study published in April 2022 showed that half of those who have already had a heart attack suffer from insomnia.

And this worsened the likelihood of another heart-related event progressing.

The study followed 1,068 patients an average of 16 months after a heart attack and/or a procedure to open blocked arteries.

Those who reported insomnia since their life-threatening hospitalization were 40 to 60 percent more likely to have had another episode of insomnia than those who didn’t struggle with sleep.


Not getting enough kip can also increase your chances of getting a stroke, as discussed above.

Scientists from McMaster University, Canada, monitored the health of 116,632 adults for eight years after surveying them about their sleep.

During that time, 4,381 people died and another 4,365 suffered serious cardiovascular problems such as a heart attack or stroke.

Sleeping less than six hours a day increased the risk by nine percent, the 2018 results showed.

However, as other studies have shown, too much sleep is also risky, with the study showing that nine to 10 hours of sleep increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 17 percent.

high blood pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) is also known as the “silent killer” because it has no symptoms.

In 2015, researchers looked at 200 people with chronic insomnia and compared their sleep and blood pressure to 100 people without the condition.

People with chronic insomnia who took more than 14 minutes to fall asleep during a daytime nap were three times more likely to develop high blood pressure, according to results published in Hypertension.

Hypertension itself can lead to deadly problems such as stroke or heart attack and may therefore explain these risks for insomniacs.

Type 2 diabetes

Bristol University researchers found that people who had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep had higher blood sugar levels than people who rarely had trouble sleeping.

This could play a direct role in the development of type 2 diabetes, they said, based on the study of more than 336,999 UK adults published in April 2022.

An estimated 27,000 UK adults with insomnia could be diabetes-free if their sleep condition were addressed, the study claimed.

Type 2 diabetes requires lifelong treatment. Without effective treatment, the risk of complications increases.

These include heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and serious eye and nerve problems.

Diabetes UK has previously found that 500 people with diabetes (all types) die prematurely in England and Wales every week.

When to the doctor

There are a number of sleep must-dos, including using your phone at least an hour before bed, cooling your bedroom, and waking up at the same time every morning.

However, for people with severe forms of insomnia, it is not that simple.

A pharmacist can help find sleep aids for people with short-term insomnia.

However, if you’ve had a problem for months, you should seek treatment from a specialist, starting with a visit to your GP.

Treatment for insomnia rarely involves sleeping pills, which can simply mask the problem.

Instead, it typically focuses on sleep education and therapy to reduce anxiety about sleep and slowly increase rest periods over a long period of time. Insomnia: From Stroke to Heart Attack

Sarah Y. Kim

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