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Insomnia linked to Heart Failure, Study Finds

Update Date: Mar 06, 2013 11:37 AM EST

Insomnia, a sleep disorder that prevents the body from falling asleep or staying asleep, has been linked to an increased risk for heart failure. A new study published in the European Heart Journal reported that three symptoms of insomnia could dramatically increase the chances of heart failure. The lead researcher, Dr. Lars Laugsand, a post-doctoral fellow with the Department of Public Health at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway, noticed the trend between insomnia and heart failure during his study.

Dr. Laugsand looked at the data from 54,279 participants from the ages of 20-89 who were enrolled in the Nord-Trondelag Health Study (HUNT) between 1995-1998. The researchers followed up on the participants in 2008 and found that certain aspects of insomnia may be linked to heart failure. The patients were asked questions about their sleeping habits, whether or not they had difficulty sleeping or staying asleep. In the follow-up survey, the researchers observed 1,412 cases of heart failure and noticed the prevalence of insomnia symptoms in these cases.

"We related heart failure risk to three major insomnia symptoms including trouble falling asleep, problems staying asleep, and not waking up feeling refreshed in the morning. In our study, we found that persons suffering from insomnia have increased risk of having heart failure. Those reporting suffering from all three insomnia symptoms simultaneously were at considerably higher risk than those who had no symptoms or only one or two symptoms," Dr. Laugsand said.

They concluded that if all three symptoms were present in an individual almost every night, the risk for heart failure went up by 353 percent. The participants used in this study had no previous history of heat failure, however, there were many several factors that the researchers had to adjust. These factors included age, gender, marital status, work, exercise, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Other health factors were blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, heart attack history, depression, anxiety, and body mass index. However, even after the adjustments, the researcher stressed that there is no evidence that this relationship is causal.

"It is still unclear why insomnia is linked to higher heart failure risk. 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. However, further research is also needed to find the possible mechanisms for this association."

More research would need to be done to determine whether or not there is a biological link between insomnia and heart failure. But, based from the numbers in this study, the correlation between the two is hard to ignore. 

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