Insomnia is a disorder that prevents people from sleeping and can be extremely detrimental to one's health. Several studies have tied sleep deprivation to health conditions such as fatigue and cognitive impairment. In a new study, researchers found that insomnia might also be associated with an increased risk of stroke.
"We feel strongly that individuals with chronic insomnia, particularly younger persons, see their physician to have stroke risk factors assessed and, when indicated, treated appropriately," said study author Ya-Wen Hsu, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Chia Nan University of Pharmacy and Science and the Department of Medical Research at Chi-Mei Medical Center in Taiwan. "Our findings also highlight the clinical importance of screening for insomnia at younger ages. Treating insomnia is also very important, whether by medication or cognitive therapy."
According to the researchers who reviewed the randomly-selected health records of more than 21,000 people with insomnia and 64,000 non- insomniacs, the risk also seems to be far greater when insomnia occurs as a young adult compared to those who are older.
The study found that insomnia raised the likelihood of subsequent hospitalization for stroke by 54 percent over four years and the incidence of stroke was eight times higher among those diagnosed with insomnia between 18-34 years old, while the risk continually decreased beyond age 35.
Researchers are yet to determine the exact reason behind why insomnia increases the risk of stroke. Current speculations are that insomnia decreases cardiovascular health via systematic inflammation, impaired glucose tolerance, increased blood pressure or sympathetic hyperactivity. All these are symptoms that lead to a stroke.
"Individuals should not simply accept insomnia as a benign, although difficult, condition that carries no major health risks," Hsu said. "They should seek medical evaluation of other possible risk factors that might contribute to stroke."
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