Fitness and Weight Loss Can't sleep? Your insomnia may be more serious than you think

People who took 30 minutes or more to fall asleep at night were 52 percent more likely to have ischemic heart disease

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insomnia causing heart problems

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A poor night’s sleep isn’t just draining your energy—it might be messing with your ticker, too: People with problems sleeping may be at greater risk of heart attack, a new study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress suggests.

In the study, researchers recruited nearly 13,000 adults and quizzed them about their sleep habits. Then, they asked how many had ischemic heart disease—either heart attack or angina, a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart—or stroke.

All in all, “poor sleep”—which was defined as low ratings on a variety of measures, including subjective sleep quality, a long time falling asleep, a short sleep duration, sleep efficiency, waking up frequently, using sleeping pills, or feeling sleepy during the day—was linked to a 71 percent increased risk of ischemic heart disease and a 45 percent increased risk of stroke compared to those who slept better.

Then, the researchers analyzed each sleep factor separately. They found that people who took 30 minutes or more to fall asleep at night were 52 percent more likely to have ischemic heart disease and 48 percent more likely to have suffered a stroke than those who nodded off sooner. What’s more, people who woke up frequently at night were nearly twice as likely to have ischemic heart disease.

“Disturbed or poor-quality sleep can lead to increased heart rate, blood pressure and the release of chemicals linked to inflammation of the heart—all of which put it under strain,” Metin Avkiran, Ph.D., associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation told The Telegraph. “Although the odd restless night is not harmful to our health, it could be a sign of something more serious if this becomes the norm."

If you find yourself struggling to get shuteye on the regular, it may be time to loop in your doctor. But if you’re just having occasional issues, try to clean up your nighttime routine by avoiding the 7 worst things you do when you just can’t sleep.

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