Insomnia Linked to Cardiovascular Disease in Women

Middle-aged women who have insomnia may be at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, a new study finds.

Nearly half of women experience sleep problems in midlife, while cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in women.

A new study published in the journal Circulation looked at the relationship between insomnia symptoms or sleep duration and CVD events, such as heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, or cardiovascular disease mortality.

The study included 2,964 women aged 42 to 52 years who were premenopausal or early perimenopausal at the beginning of the study. They also were not using hormone therapy and were free of CVD.

The average age of the participants was 45.86 years, and they had a body mass index of 28.08, falling into the overweight range.

Over the study period of 22 years, they completed up to 16 visits, including questionnaires assessing insomnia symptoms, depressive symptoms, and the occurrence of CVD events.

Trouble falling asleep, waking up several times a night, or waking earlier than planned three times a week or more was classified as insomnia.

Nearly one in four (23%) of the participants had high insomnia symptoms that persisted, while 39% experienced low insomnia symptoms. Nineteen percent reported moderate insomnia symptoms decreasing over time, and 20% had low insomnia symptoms increasing over time.

Persistently high insomnia symptoms were associated with a 70% increased risk of a cardiovascular disease event.

Moreover, women who had persistently high insomnia that was also accompanied by short sleep had an even greater increased risk (75%) of cardiovascular disease events.

“These findings underscore both the prevalence of insufficient sleep at midlife in women as well as the importance of insomnia to women’s cardiovascular health over midlife. These data further suggest the potential value of treating insomnia to support women’s heart health,” Rebecca Thurston, Ph.D., professor at the University of Pittsburgh and the study’s corresponding author, said in a statement.

Health risks of having insomnia

Long-lasting or severe insomnia can cause sleep deprivation, which may result in daytime sleepiness. Feeling very sleepy during the day can be dangerous for people who are driving and doing other tasks that require alertness and attention.

Sleep deprivation can also increase the risk of the following conditions:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack and stroke
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Psychosis-involving conditions

Insomnia treatments may range from lifestyle changes to various medications. The main treatment approaches include:

  • Develop and practice sleep hygiene, such as going to bed at the same time every night and avoiding drinking alcohol and caffeine.
  • Medications: sedative drugs that reduce nervous system activity and hypnotic drugs that make you sleepy.
  • Mental healthcare

The study findings underscore the importance of managing sleep problems in midlife women to protect their cardiovascular health later in life.


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