Being unable to sleep could increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to new research.

The study, conducted by the Karolinska Institutet in Swede, did not involve people with diabetes. However, having diabetes increases the risk of both heart disease and stroke, and can make sleeping harder.

The findings enforce the benefits of getting good quality sleep each night. People with diabetes or without the condition can improve their sleep quality through a variety of ways, including eating a healthy diet low in sugar, avoiding stimulants close to bed time, going to bed at a regular time each night and avoiding lie-ins and naps during the day.

One of the limitations of the study was that it was unable to determine whether insomnia caused the increased risk of heart disease and stroke or whether this was just an association.

The Swedish team identified that insomnia sufferers were 70% more likely to develop coronary artery disease, heart failure and stroke.

The trial used a technique known as ‘Mendelian randomisation’, which uses genetic variants known to be connected with a potential risk factor, such as insomnia, to discover the relations to a disease.

The 1.3 million participants with or without heart disease and stroke were drawn from four major public studies and groups. Among the participants, the researchers analysed 248 genetic markers known to play a role in insomnia against the odds of heart failure, ischemic stroke and atrial fibrillation.

Those who had genetic liability to insomnia were associated with significantly higher odds of coronary artery disease and stroke.

“Sleep is a behaviour that can be changed by new habits and stress management,” said Susanna Larsso, lead study author and associate professor of cardiovascular and nutritional epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. “It’s important to identify the underlying reason for insomnia and treat it.”

The findings have been published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

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