Sleeplessness can spike heart attack risk

By Shayna Brouker • Published: January 5th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Here’s a New Year’s resolution you should really take to heart: Turn in early tonight and get more sleep. A new study In Norway found that insomnia can increase the risk of heart attacks.

The 11-year study of more than 50,000 Norwegian adults found that those who had trouble falling asleep most nights over the period of a month had a 45 percent higher risk of heart attacks. People who had trouble staying asleep had a 30 percent increase in heart attack risk. And waking up groggy in the A-M more than once a week was linked with a 27 percent greater chance of having a heart attack.

It’s not the first study to suggest a link between sleep and blood pressure. Researchers in Greece found that waiting an hour to snooze after eating decreased the risk of stroke by two-thirds. More studies are needed to pin down the connection between sufficient sleep and a healthy heart, but scientists think it may have something to do with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes sufferers to temporarily stop breathing during slumber, and it’s a risk factor for heart disease, too. The periodic interruption of sweet slumber can create a vicious cycle of extreme drowsiness.

So what can you do if Z’s seem to escape you at night? Make sure to establish a bedtime routine to wind down from the day. Drink some tea, turn off electronics and dim the lights. Ban blue lights from T-Vs, alarm clocks and cell phones in the bedroom. Limit naps to 20 minutes, finish exercising three hours before bed and avoid caffeine in the afternoon. If nothing eases your insomnia, talk to a doctor. It may be a sign of an underlying problem, like depression or asthma.

Getting a solid seven to eight hours of snooze time will keep you and your heart healthy.