Insomniacs face a greater risk of heart attacks and strokes, major study of 500,000 people uncovers


Insomniacs face a greater risk of heart attacks and strokes: Major study of 500,000 people uncovers more proof that not getting enough sleep could kill you

  • Scientists found risk spiked by nearly a fifth in study of nearly 500,000 people 
  • Finding adds to a wealth of research linking insomnia to poor health outcomes 
  • A good night’s sleep is vital as to allow the heart and other organs to restore 

It’s news that would keep you up at night, if you weren’t already struggling to get to sleep. 

People who have trouble getting shut eye are significantly more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, a study has warned.

Scientists looked at nearly 500,000 people and found the risk of the killer events spiked for insomniacs by nearly a fifth. 

The findings, by researchers in China, add to a wealth of studies which have linked insomnia to poor health outcomes.

People who have trouble sleeping at night are significantly more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, scientists say

People who have trouble sleeping at night are significantly more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, scientists say

It is widely believed that the condition, suffered by an estimated one in three adults, changes bodily functions.

Sleep is vital as a restorative time, making the person feel energised and refreshed, experts say.

It also gives the immune system and the cardiovascular system a much-needed rest, and at the same time allows other organs to be restored. 

Experts believe lack of sleep raises blood pressure and alters the metabolism – both known risk factors of cardiovascular disease.

Chinese researchers followed 480,000 people for a decade. Participants had an average age of 51 and had no history of heart problems.


Relax before going to bed. Have a warm bath, listen to music or practise meditation or yoga. Use bath salts, or throw in Epsom salts and baking soda – one cup of each. These will relax you and also help remove toxins from your body.

Don’t eat heavy meals close to bedtime. The energy your body will generate to digest the meal will keep you awake. However you can eat a small, low protein, high carbohydrate bedtime snack, such as juice and biscuits, which eaten about an hour before bedtime, can help you fall asleep sooner.

Play some soft, soothing music. Lull yourself to sleep.There are even cassettes and records designed for that very purpose. Some are specially composed music, others simply have sounds of waves rhythmically breaking, or the steady pattern of a heartbeat.

Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends and holidays. Once you’ve awake, get up. Don’t lie in bed thinking about getting up. Just do it. 

Volunteers were asked if they had any of three symptoms of insomnia at least three days per week – trouble falling or staying asleep, waking up too early or trouble staying focused during the day due to poor sleep.


Over the course of the decade, there were 130,032 cases of stroke, heart attack and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect the risk of stroke or heart disease, including alcohol consumption, smoking, and level of physical activity.

Sufferers of all three insomnia symptoms were 18 per cent more likely to develop the conditions, results revealed.

People who woke up too early in the morning and could not get back to sleep were at a seven per cent increased risk.

Those who reported trouble staying focused during the day due to poor sleep were 13 per cent more likely to suffer the deadly health outcomes.

Study author Dr Liming Li, from Beijing University, said: ‘These results suggest that if we can target people who are having trouble sleeping with behavioural therapies, it’s possible that we could reduce the number of cases of stroke, heart attack and other diseases later down the line. 

‘The link between insomnia symptoms and these diseases was even stronger in younger adults and people who did not have high blood pressure at the start of the study.

‘So future research should look especially at early detection and interventions aimed at these groups.’

The researchers said the study does not show cause and effect between insomnia symptoms and stroke and heart disease. It only shows an association. The findings were published by the journal Neurology.     

A plethora of studies over the last decade have linked lack of sleep with an increased risk of heart attacks.

Last month, University of Colorado scientists found people who slept more than five hours was linked to a 52 per cent greater risk of heart attack.

In January, the Spanish National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) in Madrid, concluded that less than six hours of shut-eye increased the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 35 per cent.

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