More evidence that insomnia increases the risk for stroke comes from results of a large population-based study.
Researchers reviewed health records from the Taiwanese national population and compared stroke outcomes over a 4-year follow-up in 21,438 patients with a diagnosis of insomnia and 64,314 age- and sex-matched patients without insomnia.
Results showed that overall, insomniac patients had an 85% higher risk of developing stroke. This was reduced to 54% after adjustment for other factors. The effect seemed to be much greater in younger people, with patients with insomnia aged 18 to 34 years having an 8-fold higher risk for stroke than those of a similar age without insomnia.
“Individuals should not simply accept insomnia as a benign, although difficult, condition that carries no major health risks,” said coauthor Ya-Wen Hsu, PhD, assistant professor at Chia Nan University of Pharmacy and Science, Taiwan.
“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. 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,” he added.
Their findings were published online in Stroke on April 3.
Commenting on the study, Demetrius Lopes, MD, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, said, “I think the conclusion of the study is reliable and likely applies not only to the Taiwanese population.”
“The study brings awareness to the increased risk of stroke in young adults with chronic insomnia,” he added. “Based on this study we should investigate signs of chronic insomnia in individuals between 18 [and] 34 years old in an effort to reduce stroke. This study is in line with many other publications highlighting the importance of healthy sleeping habits.”
The study is the first to try to quantify the risk in a large population group and the first to assess whether the risk for stroke differs by insomnia subtypes, Dr. Hsu said.
During the 4-year follow-up, 583 participants with insomnia and 962 without insomnia were admitted for stroke. Results showed a higher rate of all types of strokes in those with insomnia.