Lack of sleep is associated with increased risk of stroke and heart attack

Lack of sleep is associated with increased risk of stroke and heart attack

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Lack of sleep can contribute to life-threatening illnesses

Insomnia increases the risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke in people. This underlines the importance of an adequate amount of sleep for our health.

A recent study by Peking University in China found that signs of insomnia are associated with higher rates of cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease, especially in younger and non-hypertensive adults. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Neurology".

Which sleep problems lead to health risks?

Difficulty falling asleep, waking up too early, and daytime fatigue due to poor sleep are associated with higher rates of ischemic heart disease and stroke, according to the current study.

Disruptive factors were excluded

After adapting to potential confounding factors such as age, tea and alcohol consumption, physical activity, use of sleeping pills, frequency of snoring, depression and anxiety, each insomnia symptom was associated with a significantly increased risk of cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease.

How much did various sleep problems increase the risks?

The risk of cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease increased by nine percent due to difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep. If people woke up too early in the morning and couldn't go back to sleep, this increased the risk by seven percent. If there was dysfunction during the day due to poor sleep, the risk increased by 13 percent.

Certain people are particularly at risk

Difficulty sleeping may be treated with behavioral therapy, which would likely reduce the number of strokes, heart attacks, and other illnesses. The association between symptoms of insomnia and these diseases was stronger in younger adults and people who did not have high blood pressure at the start of the study. Future research should focus in particular on early detection and interventions for these groups of people.

Study included 487,200 people

In the current study, the researchers analyzed the data of 487,200 people between the ages of 30 and 79 from ten different areas in China. People with a history of stroke, coronary artery disease, or cancer were excluded from the exam.

How common were sleep problems?

At the start of the study, the participants reported whether they had experienced symptoms of insomnia on at least three days in the past month. Overall, 16.4 percent of people reported symptoms of insomnia. 11.3 percent of the participants reported difficulties in initiating or maintaining sleep. 10.4 percent woke up too early in the morning and could not go back to sleep afterwards, and another 2.2 percent suffered from dysfunction during the day due to poor sleep

How many heart diseases and strokes did the study show?

Over a period of 9.6 years, 130,032 incidents of cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases were documented, including 40,348 cases of ischemic heart disease and 45,316 strokes. People with the above sleep problems were at higher risk for ischemic heart disease than people with no corresponding symptoms of insomnia. However, difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep was associated with a higher risk of acute myocardial infarction. Every symptom of insomnia was associated with an increased risk of ischemic stroke, but not with the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

What was the combined risk from symptoms of insomnia?

People who had all three symptoms of insomnia had an 18 percent higher risk of cerebrovascular or cardiovascular disease, a 22 percent higher risk of ischemic heart disease, and a 10 percent higher risk of ischemic stroke than adults without such symptoms.

Were there any restrictions on the exam?

There were several limitations in the study, for example, no information about sleep that was not restful was evaluated. In addition, symptoms of insomnia were reported by the participants themselves and only assessed at the start of the study. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Bang Zheng, Canqing Yu, Jun Lv, Yu Guo, Zheng Bian et al .: Insomnia symptoms and risk of cardiovascular diseases among 0.5 million adults, in Neurology (query: 07.11.2019), Neurology

Video: Sleep Disorders and the Heart: What Do Cardiologists Need to Know? (January 2023).