Did you know, sleeping problems can affect both mental and physical health? New studies highlight how insomnia might even lead to potentially life threatening cardiovascular diseases.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is when you regularly have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or both. Usually it’s short term, but longer term sleeping problems are not uncommon. Often Insomnia is in response to stress or worry but can also be associated with depression, alcohol excess or chronic pain conditions. While very commonly causes chronic fatigue, concentration, memory problems and just not feeling ‘good’ overall.
A higher chance of cardiovascular disease
A new study that is worth discussing, has recently been published in Neurology. Researchers analysed three symptoms of insomnia, where the symptoms lasted at least 3 days a week. The symptoms were: problems falling asleep or staying asleep, waking too early, or struggling to focus during the day because of disrupted sleep.
It was identified that the participants who reported experiencing all three insomnia symptoms had an 18% increased chance of developing cardiovascular diseases, compared with those who did not experience the symptoms.
Those who reported trouble focusing during the day were 13% more likely to develop heart attack, stroke, and comparable diseases than people who did not have problems focusing.
Researchers identified that the people who found it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep had a 9% higher chance of developing these diseases, while those who woke up too early were 7% more likely to experience a stroke, heart attack, or similar.
Despite these results, the researchers point out that they have not established a cause and effect between insomnia and cardiovascular illnesses. The findings simply highlight a link between the two.
Notably, this link “was even stronger in younger adults and people who did not have high blood pressure at the start of the study,” says study author Dr. Liming Li of Beijing’s Peking University in China.
The researchers note that participants in the study self-reported their symptoms of insomnia, which may mean the data is not entirely accurate. However, further analysis, enlisting medical professionals to track symptoms of insomnia, would strengthen the relationship.
“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.”
Dr. Liming Li
How to treat insomnia
Insomnia can be difficult to treat, especially if it has been going on for a long time. Options include medication, which can be short-term (e.g. temazepam, Alodorm, Stilnox, Zolpidem) or a newer medication called Belsomra, which is better for long term usage. If there is an underlying issue with depression or anxiety, this may require treatment in order to resolve the insomnia. A referral to a psychologist with expertise in sleep problems can be very useful. Rapid Transformational Therapy, a type of hypnotherapy as practised by our own Dr Merci Kusel, can be very effective. Of course, it’s also essential to have good sleep hygiene measures such as reducing caffeine, avoiding exercise or mental stimulation too late at night and listening to soft, calming music.
Just as this new study highlights, it is important to not let insomnia affect your health. For more information on how to address insomnia and its health related issues, book an appointment with our friendly GPs at Azure Medical Clinic today.