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Insomnia and Heart Failure

I didn’t sleep a wink last night after reading the latest study linking insomnia to yet another health problem, this time heart failure. If you’re ready to take on the information you can read the study here.

OK, I hope I made you laugh, because this actually is worthy of attention.

The effect is statistically significant, studying the association between three aspects of sleep difficulty (difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and unrefreshing sleep) and found that having problems not in one, but in two or three of those areas, resulted in a 35% or a (gulp) 450% increase in the diagnosis of heart failure.

Of course like many excellent studies, this one raises more question than it answers. Is it just poor sleep that causes the heart failure? Does the same problem that causes poor blood sugar (say, for instance, erratic blood sugar levels) cause heart failure as well?

If a poor sleeper improves his/her sleep, is the risk of heart failure reduced or (like niacin supplementation which lowers triglycerides but not the consequences of high triglycerides) does it merely change the association but not the outcome?

This is also one of those areas, numerous in medicine, where taking an action in a well-formulated way, offers certain benefit, without knowing the full extent of the benefit. I would be completely uncertain that sleeping pills would solve the heart problem, even if one did sleep well with them. Consistent use of or need for sleeping pills is associated with an increased risk of premature death, so that is not the way to solve the problem.

On the other hand, surveying your own sleep habits and correcting the problem with gentle nutritional and lifestyle interventions will at the least give you a better night’s sleep. And possibly reduce your risk of heart failure.

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