Insomnia, a chronic sleep disorder, may be an indicator of heart problems to come. (ISTOCKPHOTO)
Sleep Disorders
Chronic insomnia may be an indicator of heart problems to come

THE QUESTION Might heart failure, which occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood through the body, be connected to insomnia, whose symptoms include trouble falling asleep and problems sleeping through the night?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on 54,279 adults, most in their mid-40s to early 50s, who had no signs of heart failure at the start of the study. In addition to a clinical exam, participants were questioned about lifestyle factors, including their sleep habits. In the next 11 years, 1,412 of the participants developed heart failure. The more insomnia symptoms they had, the more likely they were to have developed heart failure, with those who reported experiencing three symptoms regularly having about a fourfold greater risk for heart failure than people with no insomnia symptoms.


Adults who have trouble sleeping. Occasional insomnia may be caused by stress or a traumatic event. Chronic insomnia, however, is generally a side effect of taking certain medications or consuming alcohol, caffeine or nicotine. It can also be a sign or symptom of another condition; studies have linked chronic insomnia to arthritis, asthma, menopause, gastrointestinal disorders and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

CAVEATS Data on sleep problems came from the participants’ responses on questionnaires completed only at the start of the study. All participants were residents of a county in Norway that is 97 percent Caucasian; whether the findings apply to other races is unclear. The study found an association between insomnia and heart failure, but it was not designed to prove cause and effect.

FIND THIS STUDY March 6 online issue of the European Heart Journal.

LEARN MORE ABOUT insomnia at Learn about heart failure at (click on “conditions”).

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.