STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Insomnia is an incredibly frustrating, and common, condition all over the world. An estimated 30% of the general population deals with the condition regularly, and for many people difficulty falling asleep tends to run in their family. Now, a study finds an association between genetic predisposition to insomnia and an increased risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, and heart failure.
According to Dr. Susanna Larsson, the study’s lead author and a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, previous research had already established a connection between insomnia and increased risk of stroke and heart disease. However, this earlier work had failed to determine if insomnia was the cause of these heart problems, or just associated with them.
So, Larsson and her team conducted a more extensive study into the matter, utilizing data collected on 1.3 million people. Some of the studied individuals suffered from heart problems or a stroke, while others did not. Researchers used a special randomization technique that takes into account genetic susceptibility to certain risk factors, in this case insomnia, in order to minimize any bias in their findings.
The results indicated that a genetic predisposition to insomnia is significantly associated with greater odds of developing coronary artery disease, heart failure, and ischemic stroke. Regarding specific types of ischemic stroke, large artery stroke was found to be the most common. It’s worth mentioning that researchers found no increased risk of arterial fibrillation among those genetically susceptible to insomnia.
“It’s important to identify the underlying reason for insomnia and treat it,” Larsson comments in a press release. “Sleep is a behavior that can be changed by new habits and stress management.”
Researchers acknowledge that their study was hindered by the fact that they couldn’t determine if the studied individuals actually suffered from insomnia, only whether or not they were genetically linked to the sleep disorder.
The study is published in the scientific journal Circulation.