New research from the American Heart Association (AHA) shows that insomnia may significantly increase the risk of a stroke as well as subsequent stroke hospitalizations. The results of the study show that the risk seems to be greater when insomnia occurs as a young adult compared to those who are older. Researchers reviewed the randomly selected health records of more than 21,000 people with insomnia and 64,000 non-insomniacs in Taiwan.

The research team divided participants into different types of insomnia. During the 4-year follow-up, 583 insomniacs and 962 non-insomniacs were admitted for stroke. According to the study published in Stroke, persistent insomniacs had a higher 3-year cumulative incidence of stroke compared to the other participants in the remission group. Overall, insomnia raised the likelihood of subsequent hospitalization by 54% over 4 years and the incidence of stroke was eight times higher among those diagnosed with insomnia between 18 to 34 years of age.

In addition, researchers found that diabetes also appeared to increase the risk of stroke in insomniacs. The mechanism linking insomnia to stroke is not fully understood, but evidence shows that insomnia may alter cardiovascular health via systematic inflammation, impaired glucose tolerance, increased blood pressure or sympathetic hyperactivity.

Ya-Wen Hsu, PhD, the author of the study, says, “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.” Hsu adds, “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.”

Source: American Heart Association