Insomnia, heart attacks and tips for a more restful sleep

People with insomnia are nearly 70% more likely to have a heart attack, compared to those who do not have the sleep disorder, according to a large analysis presented yesterday at the American College of Cardiology’s annual conference. The new study published yesterday in Clinical Cardiology was conducted by an international team of researchers who examined the connection between insomnia and heart attacks in more than 1 million adults from 6 countries, with the average age of 52. The study found that people who suffer from insomnia were 69% more likely to have a heart attack compared to those who didn’t. And while insomnia may raise the risk of having a heart attack, consistent high quality sleep habits were found to increase longevity.

Do you have any of the following symptoms? In the study, people were categorized as having insomnia if they had at least one of three symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep.
  • Difficulty staying asleep.
  • Waking too early in the morning.

The symptoms had to be present for at least three days a week for at least three months. It was found that over an average of nine years of follow-up, people who habitually slept five hours or less were 56% more likely to have a heart attack than those who had the recommended eight hours a night, regardless of age or gender.

“Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, but in many ways it’s no longer just an illness, it’s more of a life choice. We just don’t prioritize sleep as much as we should,” said Yomna E. Dean, a medical student at Alexandria University in Alexandria, Egypt, and author of the study. “Our study showed that people with insomnia are more likely to have a heart attack regardless of age, and heart attacks occurred more often in women with insomnia.”

Nearly 40% of Hong Kong Chinese adults suffer from insomnia, according to a study by the European Sleep Research Society.

With nearly 40% of Hong Kong Chinese adults suffering from insomnia, what can we do to promote a good night’s sleep?

  1. Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed. In Hong Kong adolescents who were addicted to internet use, 51% reported having sleep disorders.
  2. Avoid foods or beverages containing caffeine at least 6 hours prior to bedtime. Caffeinated foods and beverages include coffee, black tea, green tea, chocolate, energy drinks and soft drinks/ soda.
  3. Expose yourself to bright light during the day. Minimise use of bright lights in the evening. Once it gets dark outside, your pineal gland begins to produce and secrete melatonin, a hormone which controls your sleep-wake cycle. Continuously being exposed to light during the evening will affect melatonin levels and sleep. One study showed that melatonin was suppressed in preschool children who were exposed to bright light in the evening. In the study, one hour of bright-light exposure in the evening suppressed the children’s melatonin secretion by around 90% and these levels remained suppressed for up to 50 minutes after light exposure.
  4. Sleep in total darkness. Do not use night lights and get black-out blinds if you need to. Any light during sleep will disrupt your body’s melatonin production and stimulate the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, which has the opposite effect of melatonin.
  5. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. When you have a regular routine, your body will learn when to wind down in the evening to prepare for sleep. Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day will help to establish a proper sleep-wake cycle.

It’s important to treat the root cause. Dr. Ardyce Yik ND helps people investigate and address the underlying causes of health concerns. Whether it’s anxiety, an overactive mind, hot flashes waking you up at night or cortisol imbalances preventing you from getting restful sleep, Dr. Yik is determined to help you overcome your insomnia.

Click here to contact Dr. Yik. Click here to read more tips on how to get better sleep, naturally.


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