Insomnia Linked With a 69% Greater Risk of Heart Disease, a New Study Suggests

There are few more frustrating feelings than when you're lying—okay, tossing and turning—in the middle of the night trying ever so desperately to coach yourself into going to sleep. Perhaps you, too, start doing the mental math at a certain point: "If I actually get to sleep soon, I'll still be able to get four hours. It will be fine!"

Counting sheep and trying to convince yourself to chill out can only do so much, especially amidst the swirling stressors of modern day life. From the news and the weather to the economy and the constant tech-based pings, it makes sense that it can be tough to turn off.

No wonder the Center Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in three American adults aren't getting enough sleep, and the National Sleep Foundation adds that 45% of us are sleeping so poorly or so little that our daily lives have been impacted at least once in the past seven days.

It's not just our energy levels that are affected, either. Falling short of the recommended seven to nine hours has been proven to hamper everything from brain health to your immunity, too.

an illustration of someone in bed having trouble sleeping
an illustration of someone in bed having trouble sleeping

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On the heels of an American Heart Association adding sleep as part of their "Life's Essential 8," or the heart disease risk factors to keep an eye on, a new study adds to the mounting body of evidence that quality shut-eye also plays a big role in our cardiovascular health.

Those who suffer from the sleep disorder insomnia appear to be 69% more likely to have a heart attack than their sound-sleeping peers, according to a new study published February 24 in Clinical Cardiology.

Read on to learn more about this research, plus simple ways to help you set yourself up for sleep success and when to seek help if you're still struggling to snooze.

Related: These Are the Best and Worst Bedroom Paint Colors for Sleep, According to Experts

What This Sleep Study Found

The researchers in this study used data from 1,184,256 adults gathered from a systematic review of nine large studies, 43% of which were women. The average age was 52, and 13% reported one or more of the following signs of insomnia:

  • Trouble falling asleep

  • Trouble staying asleep

  • Waking early and not being able to fall back to sleep

Nearly all—about 96%—didn't have a previous history of a heart attack.

After analyzing the aggregated data about this large pool of people, the researchers noted a direct correlation between meeting the diagnostic criteria for insomnia and increased risk for heart attack, regardless of the individual's age, gender identity and common coexisting conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol.

However, "not surprisingly, people with insomnia who also had high blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes had an even higher risk of having a heart attack than those who didn't," Yomna E. Dean, study author and medical student at Alexandria University in Alexandria, Egypt tells the American College of Cardiology. "People with diabetes who also have insomnia had a twofold likelihood of having a heart attack."

Those who slept less than 5 hours per night were between 1.38 and 1.56 times more likely to experience a heart attack compared with their peers who slept 6 and 7 to 8 hours per night, respectively. Dean believes this may be due to the fact that shifting through all the stages of sleep helps our bodies repair, rejuvenate and function optimally the next day—and shallow or short stints of sleep can impede important daily maintenance.

Getting adequate sleep can help our bodies better maintain healthy levels of blood sugar, blood pressure and body weight; all factors that play a role in our overall heart health profile. Plus, a lack of sleep can put the body in a stressed state, which may lead to the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which research proves may also accelerate the onset of heart attack.

Related: 4 Ways to Get a Better Night's Sleep, According to an Expert

The Bottom Line

A new study examining sleep and heart health found that having insomnia may increase risk for a heart attack. The results of this research are based on self-reported data, and more research is needed to confirm the link between insufficient sleep and heart attack risk.

Still, if you find yourself falling short on sleep often, try these sleep hygiene tips:

"If you have tried all these things and still can't sleep or are sleeping less than 5 hours, talk with your doctor," Dean suggests.

Up next: What I Did for One Week For Better Sleep