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Sleep Deprivation Increases Heart Attack Risk, Study Finds

A study of 52,000 Norwegian men and women, in confirming similar findings in the United States, found that difficulty in falling and/or staying asleep can increase one’s risk of an acute myocardial infarction, the dreaded heart attack, by 30 to 45 percent — a not insignificant increase over sound sleepers.

The study, by Lars E. Laugsand, MD, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, and his colleagues, focused on the risks associated with insomnia, which the study says affects a third or more of all people. But the risks are just as real for people suffering from other types of sleep deprivation, whether sleep apnea, nasal or breathing problems, or chronic snoring.

“Therefore, evaluation of insomnia might provide additional information in clinical risk assessment that could be useful in cardiovascular prevention,” the researchers suggested in the paper they published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

During 11.4 years of following the 52,610 Norwegian men and women being studied, the researchers found evidence of 2,368 reported heart attacks. The likelihood of the general population’s being similar at risk for heart attack was then computed by adjusting for age, sex, education, work shifts, marital status, depression, anxiety, and heart disease risk factors, such as smoking and physical activity.

The researchers suggested that, in many cases, just adopting sound sleep-hygiene practices can reduce the health risk and even eliminate the sleep problems, but in other cases they recommended pharmacological and other forms of treatment and intervention. Interestingly, they found that, when they eliminated people in the study who took sleep aids or medications, the risk factor skyrocketed for the remaining non-aided sleepers.

In short, this is another study affirming that sleep problems should not be treated lightly or brushed off. Chronic or repeated sleep issues resulting in sleep deprivation can have serious short- and long-term health consequences.

If you’re a chronic poor sleeper, the first step is to be kinder and gentler to yourself at night by adopting sound sleep habits. But if your difficulties go beyond such common-sense, at-home solutions, you should seek professional help not today, but yesterday. Don’t let sleep problems become a serious health problem.

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