Experts warn of lack of sleep for this dangerous reason

People with insomnia can be 69% more likely to have a heart attack than those who haven't experienced a sleep disorder during an average of nine years of follow-up, new medical research shows, according to new research presented at the annual American College of Cardiology.

When looking at sleep duration as an objective measure of insomnia, the researchers found that people who spent five hours or less of sleep a night were more likely to have a heart attack. People with diabetes and insomnia are twice as likely to have a heart attack.

Study author Youmna Dean from Alexandria University, Egypt, confirmed that "people with insomnia are more likely to have a heart attack regardless of age, and that heart attacks occur more often in women with insomnia."

Dean and her research team hope the current study will help draw attention to the role sleep disorders may play in heart health.

"Based on our aggregated data, insomnia should be considered a risk factor for heart attack, and we need to do a better job of educating people about how dangerous it is to lack of quality sleep," Dean said.

Based on the data collected, there was a statistically significant association between insomnia and heart attack after controlling for other factors that could increase the likelihood of a heart attack such as age, gender, comorbidities and smoking.

This association between insomnia and heart attack remained important in all patient subgroups, including younger and older ages (65 and 65), follow-up duration (more or less than five years), male-female sex, and common comorbidities (diabetes, hypertension, or cholesterol).

Furthermore, people who reported five or fewer hours of sleep a night were 1.38 times more likely to have a heart attack and 1.56 times compared to those who slept six hours and seven to eight hours a night, respectively. Dean said there was no difference in heart attack risk among those who get five, less, nine hours or more of sleep a night, supporting the findings of previous studies that showed too little or too much sleep can be harmful. Dean and her team found that patients who slept six hours were less likely to have a heart attack compared to those who slept nine hours.

In a separate analysis, researchers sought to determine whether individual insomnia symptoms were associated with an increased risk of heart attack. Sleep onset and maintenance disorders – that is, difficulty falling asleep or continuing – have also been linked to a 13% increased risk of heart attack compared to people without these symptoms.

Non-restorative sleep and daytime dysfunction are not linked to heart attacks, suggesting that those who only complain of feeling unrefreshed when waking up without lack of sleep are not at increased risk of heart attacks.

Based on the findings, the study author stressed that it is important for people to prioritize sleep so that they get seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night.

Dean advised, "Practice good sleep habits; the room should be dark, quiet and on the cooler side, the farthest the devices. Do something soothing to calm down, and if you've tried all of these things and still can't sleep or sleep less than five hours, talk to your doctor."