The link between sleep problems and heart disease has been noted in the past by sleep experts, but the reasons why have been unclear. Study results, presented at EuroHeartCare (an annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology) are the first to examine the impact sleep disorders have on heart attack/stroke risk.
The study formed part of the World Health Organisation’s MONICA programme (Multinational Monitoring of Trends and Determinants in Cardiovascular Disease) and studied the sleeping habits of Russian men over 14 years. None of the participants had a history of diabetes, heart attack or stroke.
At the end of the study it was found that two-thirds of those who had a heart attack also had a sleep disorder.
Professor Valery Gafarov explains the results of the study:
“Sleep is not a trivial issue. In our study, it was associated with double the risk of stroke. Poor sleep should be considered a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease along with smoking, lack of exercise, and poor diet. Guidelines should add sleep as a risk factor to recommendations for preventing cardiovascular disease.”
Participants with sleep disorders had up to a 2.6 times higher risk of myocardial infraction (where heart attack is caused by the death of muscle in the heart) and were between 1.5 and 4 times more likely to have a stroke.
For the majority of people, a good night’s sleep consists of around seven to eight hours of sleep. Gafarov said their previous research saw links between sleep disorders and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, so speaking to a psychologist could help.
If you are finding it difficult to sleep, a visit to your doctor will help you understand the root cause of your problem. If there is no underlying medical cause, you could benefit from seeking hypnotherapy.
Helping to train the brain to switch off and relax at bedtime can be all that’s needed. You can find out more about the various things that stop us from sleeping (and how hypnotherapy can help) on our dedicated sleep disorders page.