How Does Insomnia Affect Heart?

Disturbed sleep is known to affect a person both mentally and physically. Insomnia is a widespread problem and affects a person’s ability to fall and stay asleep. According to a study, people who have a genetic predisposition towards insomnia are at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart failure. (1)

Insomnia may increase body weight and also lead to high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, all of which are the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases.

Link Between Insomnia and Heart Failure

Those with insomnia have difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep, and also waking up in the morning. A study done in 2013 showed the risk of heart failure increased 3 times in people with all the above three symptoms of insomnia. (2)

It is still not clear why insomnia increases the risk of heart failure, but it is believed that these two theories might be the reason.

  • An underlying biological cause.
  • Stress response activated by insomnia might take a toll on the heart.

How Does Insomnia Affect Heart?

Insomnia increases the risk of a few conditions that act as a precursor in degrading heart health. (3)

  1. High Blood Pressure: A normal sleep helps in lowering blood pressure. If a person is not able to sleep the blood pressure stays higher for a long period of time. High blood pressure is the greatest risk factor in causing heart failure.
  2. Type 2 Diabetes: Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body’s ability to metabolize sugar is affected. It can cause damage to the blood vessels in the long run. A study shows getting good sleep helps in improving the blood sugar level. (4)
  3. Obesity: Less sleep can increase body weight and also the chances of obesity. Obesity is another risk factor that is known to cause heart disease.

What are the Conditions that Interrupt Sleep?

There are numerous conditions that can affect sleep and increase the severity of insomnia.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is known to affect 50% of people with heart failure.(5) People with this condition have prolonged breathing pauses during sleep arousing a person from a deep sleep, many times at night. This leads to sleep deprivation. A person may not be aware of these arousals at night but may experience symptoms of sleep deprivation.

Sleep apnea and heart failure make a vicious cycle. Sleep apnea makes heart failure worse and heart failure would make sleep apnea worse.

Nocturnal Movement Disorders

People suffering from heart failure may experience restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder that are two kinds of nocturnal movement disorder.

In restless leg syndrome there is leg discomfort during sleep which may include burning, twitching, and creeping sensations that may compel a person to move his leg to get relief. Sometimes there may be involuntary jerking or shaking of legs that may make falling asleep difficult.

Periodic limb movement disorder is similar to restless leg syndrome that may involve the involuntary movement of legs.

Treatment for Insomnia

Lack of sleep can affect health and wellbeing causing sleepiness, fatigue, lack of sleep, moodiness, difficulty in concentrating.

Tips to improve sleep are:

  • Limit activities during bedtime
  • Get up at the same time in the morning and go to bed at the same time.
  • Avoid watching mobile and television during sleep time.
  • Avoid daytime naps.
  • Avoid nicotine and caffeine during bedtime.
  • Sleep in a room that is dark, quiet, and has a comfortable temperature.

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