Among men who suffer from certain types of insomnia — difficulty falling asleep and non-restorative sleep in particular — there is a slight increase in risk of death from heart-related problems, according to a new study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
People with insomnia have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both, with the result that they do not get enough sleep and may not feel refreshed upon waking up. Research has shown that sleep is vital for heart health, and many studies have linked poor sleep with increased risk factors for cardiovascular-related diseases.
“Insomnia is a common health issue, particularly in older adults, but the link between this common sleep disorder and its impact on the risk of death has been unclear,” said lead author of the new study Dr. Yanping Li, a research fellow in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).
For the study, published in the journal Circulation, researchers analyzed data on self-reported insomnia symptoms of nearly 23,500 men taking part in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.
Using information from the government and the men’s families, they found that 2,025 of the participants died sometime over the six-year follow-up period.
After adjusting for lifestyle, age, and other chronic conditions, the researchers found that men who reported having difficulty falling asleep and non-restorative sleep had a 55% and 32% increased risk of death due to heart-related causes, respectively, compared with men who did not report experiencing these sleep problems.
“Now we know that not only can poor sleep impact disease risk, but it may also impact our longevity.
“While further research is necessary to confirm these findings, there is overwhelming evidence that practicing good sleep hygiene and prioritizing sufficient and restful sleep is an often overlooked but important modifiable risk factor in overall health,” said senior author Dr. Xiang Gao, assistant professor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Earlier this year, a large study from the Netherlands suggested that the effect of sufficient sleep on heart-related deaths could be as strong as not smoking.