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Insomnia linked to increased risk for heart disease

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

insomnia and heart disease

Story at-a-glance -

  • Recent research shows genetic predisposition to insomnia is associated with a significantly higher risk of coronary artery disease, heart failure and ischemic stroke, but not atrial fibrillation
  • Frequent or chronic insomnia is strongly associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, a precursor and risk factor for heart disease
  • Compared to those getting seven to eight hours of sleep on a regular basis, those who sleep less are 27% more likely to have subclinical atherosclerosis
  • Mechanisms by which insomnia or poor sleep affects your heart health include hypothalamic-pituitary axis dysregulation, increased sympathetic nervous system activity, abnormal modulation of the autonomic nervous system, increased atherogenesis and increased systemic inflammation
  • While short sleep duration (typically less than six hours) is considered distinct from insomnia, it appears that too little sleep, whether due to insomnia or not, can have similar effects, and that when insomnia and short sleep duration occurs together, they may have an additive effect on CVD risk

Sleep deprivation has the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or illness, which may help explain why lack of sleep is tied to an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases, including heart disease. For example, research has shown frequent or chronic insomnia is strongly associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, a precursor and risk factor for heart disease.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “People who sleep five hours or less a night may be at higher risk of developing high blood pressure or worsening already high blood pressure.”


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