Struggling to get some solid sleep? You might have some bigger problems than simply feeling cranky the next morning: Insomnia may raise your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a meta-analysis in the
Researchers analyzed 15 studies that looked at people with symptoms of insomnia, including difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking up in the way-early morning, or non-restorative sleep, when you awaken without feeling rested.
They concluded that people who had trouble falling asleep were 27 percent more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke down the line than the ones who slept normally.
People who had trouble staying asleep and those who reported non-restorative sleep increased their chances of a heart or stroke by 11 percent and 18 percent, respectively.
The researchers aren’t exactly sure why insomnia may raise the risk of heart attack and stroke, but they do have a few theories: It may trigger activate the part of your nervous system involved in your fight or flight response, increase the amount of inflammatory proteins in your body, or even raise your blood pressure—all factors which can make you more vulnerable to cardio-cerebral vascular events, the researchers say.
But it’s also possible that depression may be a driving factor behind insomnia, and that can also independently raise your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Many of the studies the researchers analyzed didn’t ask about depressive symptoms, so it’s possible that could have influenced the findings.
The study didn’t look into whether treating insomnia can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, but if you’re struggling with it, loop in your doctor.
He or she may recommend a sleep specialist, who can help you learn to snooze more soundly with treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy.