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expert reaction to insomnia and heart failure

A study in the European Heart Journal  followed 54,279 people for an average of over 11 years, and found that those who suffered from from insomnia had an increased risk of developing heart failure. A before the headlines analysis accompanied this roundup.


Professor Emeritus Alun Evans, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University of Belfast, said:

“This huge, well-conducted prospective study demonstrates a very significant association between the number of symptoms of poor sleep at baseline and the development of heart failure a decade later.  Could this association be causal?  Links between sleep disturbances/deprivation and childhood overweight and learning impairment, and adult obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and cognitive dysfunction have been reported previously.  How might these diverse conditions be linked?

“An entirely separate intervention study has recently shown that sleep deprivation affects the expression of several hundred of our genes.  These findings could point to causal mechanisms.”


Dr Tim Chico, Senior Clinical Lecturer and honorary Consultant Cardiologist at the University of Sheffield/Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said:

“Heart failure is caused by reduced efficiency of the heart to pump blood, and often causes symptoms such as shortness of breath, tiredness, ankle swelling and distension of the abdomen.  Our ability to treat heart failure has improved massively in the last few years, with many hospitals setting up specific heart failure clinics and services.  Diagnosis of heart failure usually involves an ultrasound scan of the heart, blood tests and an assessment by a specialist.

“This is an ‘association study’; it links insomnia to heart failure, but does not prove that insomnia causes heart failure or vice versa.  Studies like this raise interesting suggestions that need further work to examine.  Insomnia is a very unpleasant condition, but there are effective lifestyle changes that can reduce it, such as weight loss and exercise.  Luckily, many of the things that reduce the chance of heart failure also reduce insomnia; good diet, exercise, weight loss and not smoking.”


‘Insomnia and the risk of incident heart failure: a population study’ by Lars E. Laugsand et al. published in the European Heart Journal on Wednesday 6 March.  

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