Poor sleep linked to increased risk of heart failure

Anna Seward - Mar 2013

Improving your sleep could help to reduce your risk of heart failure, new research suggests.

People who have difficulty sleeping appear to be more likely to develop heart failure, according to a Norwegian study.

A team of researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim followed more than 54,000 people, aged 20 to 89, for an average of more than 11 years.

Participants with symptoms of insomnia were found to be more likely to develop heart failure during the study period than sound sleepers.

Overall, people with three symptoms of insomnia - trouble falling asleep, problems staying asleep and not feeling refreshed after sleep - were over three times more likely to develop heart failure than those with no symptoms of the sleep disorder.

The association between insomnia and heart failure remained after other factors, including age, shift work, body mass index, depression and anxiety, had been taken into account.

Dr Lars Laugsand, postdoctoral fellow in the university's department of public health, noted: "[Study participants] suffering from all three insomnia symptoms simultaneously were at considerably higher risk than those who had no symptoms or only one or two symptoms."

The study, which is published in the European Heart Journal, does not show whether or not insomnia actually causes the increase in heart failure risk.

Further research is also needed to uncover why insomnia might be linked to a higher risk of heart failure.

However, Dr Laugsand revealed: "We have some indications that there might be a biological cause, and one possible explanation could be that insomnia activates stress responses in the body that might negatively affect heart function."

June Davison, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, commented that sleep is known to be vital for people's mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.

She advised: "Trouble drifting off, or problems staying asleep, can be helped by taking a warm bath to relax, or avoiding caffeine and heavy meals too close to the end of the day."

People who have difficulty getting to sleep or regularly wake up during the night may also benefit from using a high-quality vitamin D supplement, such as the one supplied byThe Really Healthy Company, with research showing that some cases of insomnia may be due to vitamin D deficiency.

For instance, a study published in the journal Medical Hypotheses in August 2012 found that vitamin D supplementation was associated with improvements in sleep among 1,500 patients with neurologic complaints and abnormal sleeping patterns.

 

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