Insomnia has been found to significantly increase the risk of stroke, particularly among individuals under the age of 50, according to research.
A study conducted in the US examined 31,126 people with an average age of 61 over a period of nine years. During this time, 2,101 participants experienced a stroke, The Times reported.
The study revealed that individuals who regularly struggled with sleep were 51% more likely to have a stroke compared to those without insomnia.
Insomnia was found to increase inflammation in the body, which can lead to damage in blood vessels and subsequent strokes.
Participants in the study were questioned about their insomnia symptoms, including difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night, waking up too early, and feeling rested in the morning.
The severity of insomnia was measured on a scale ranging from zero to eight.
It was found that those scoring between five and eight, indicating severe insomnia and difficulty sleeping most nights, had a 51% higher risk of stroke compared to those with no symptoms.
Even individuals with occasional sleep problems, scoring between one and four, had a 16% higher risk of stroke.
The impact of insomnia on stroke risk was more pronounced among individuals under the age of 50, who generally have a lower overall risk of stroke.
Participants under 50 with severe insomnia symptoms had nearly four times the stroke risk compared to those without symptoms, while this increased risk decreased to 38% in individuals over the age of 50.
Dr Wendemi Sawadogo, the lead author of the research conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University and published in the journal Neurology, highlighted the importance of managing insomnia symptoms, particularly at a younger age, for stroke prevention.
The study suggests that earlier interventions, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, could help reduce the risk of stroke associated with insomnia.
The findings also emphasise the need for wider availability of therapies and behavioural treatments to improve sleep quality.
It is important to note that the study was observational, so it cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship. However, the results considered other factors that could influence stroke risk, such as alcohol consumption, smoking, and exercise levels.
Previous research has also demonstrated the significant impact of sleep on heart attack and stroke risk, with insomnia being linked to conditions like type 2 diabetes and depression.
Insomnia is believed to contribute to inflammation, high blood pressure, and increased stress hormone levels, which can lead to long-term heart damage and a weakened immune system.
The findings from this study contribute to the growing body of evidence highlighting the association between insomnia and stroke risk.
Experts recommend individuals with sleep problems to consult their healthcare providers to discuss potential stroke risk factors and management strategies.
Lifestyle changes, including maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, and practicing relaxation techniques, may also help improve sleep quality and reduce the risk of stroke.