Researchers had drawn an interesting, yet disturbing, conclusion from a study of over 54,000 people who were followed for over 11 years. This is the largest study to date on this topic.

They found that people who suffered from three symptoms of insomnia were more than three times as likely to suffer heart failure as people who had no insomnia.

Patients in the study were aked if they had problems getting to sleep and staying asleep by answering "never," "occasionally," "often" and "almost every night." They were also asked how often they woke up in the morning not feeling refreshed (non-restorative sleep): "never, few times a year," "one to two times per month," "once a week," "more than once a week."

"We related heart failure risk to three major insomnia symptoms including trouble falling asleep, problems staying asleep, and not waking up feeling refreshed in the morning. In our study, we found that persons suffering from insomnia have increased risk of having heart failure. Those reporting suffering from all three insomnia symptoms simultaneously were at considerably higher risk than those who had no symptoms or only one or two symptoms." Said Dr. Lars Laugsand, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Public Health, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

He continued saying that although there was a correlation between the inability to fall asleep easily and hear failure, they had no yet determined if it was a direct cause.

"We do not know whether heart failure is really caused by insomnia, but if it is, insomnia is a potentially treatable condition using strategies such as following simple recommendations concerning sleeping habits (often referred to as sleep hygiene), and several psychological and pharmacological therapies. Evaluation of sleep problems might provide additional information that could be used in prevention of heart failure" said Dr. Laugsand.

Researchers found a 353 percent increase in heart failure for people who suffered all three symptoms of insomnia. When investigators looked at the impact of depression and anxiety they found that people were more than four times (425 percent) as likely to suffer heart failure during the study period.

The authors conclude the paper by saying:

"We found a moderate risk increase related to the individual insomnia symptoms. However, the risk among those with all the three insomnia symptoms simultaneously was particularly high even after adjustment for established cardiovascular risk factors and psychological distress. This finding may be interpreted as suggesting that compromising some aspects of sleep may be somehow compensated for, and the net effect on cardiovascular disease may be limited. For example, having difficulty falling asleep might be compensated for by a satisfactory depth and a good continuity of sleep. However, if the initiation of sleep is poor and combined with repeated awakenings and superficial sleep, there may not be any compensatory mechanisms."

The research report found in the Eurpoean Society of Cardiology can be found here.