The Combination of Insomnia and Stress Greatly Increases Heart Disease Risk and Death

There are two things most of us can agree on: lack of sleep and job stress can both be bad for your health. Unfortunately, a new study warns that the two things combined can actually increase risk of cardiovascular death, especially among those with high blood pressure. 

According to study author Karl-Heinz Ladwig, “Sleep should be a time for recreation, unwinding, and restoring energy levels. If you have stress at work, sleep helps you recover. Unfortunately poor sleep and job stress often go hand in hand, and when combined with hypertension the effect is even more toxic.”

The Technical University of Munich German Research Centre for Environmental Health and the Medical Faculty professor goes on to advise, “If you have high demands but also high control, in other words you can make decisions, this may even be positive for health. But being entrapped in a pressured situation that you have no power to change is harmful.”

The study looked at 2,000 hypertensive workers between the ages of 25 and 65. These patients have not had a prior history, nor an existing diagnosis of, cardiovascular disease or diabetes. When compared against those with no work stress and good sleep, it appears that people who have both risk factors could be three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

Thus, Ladwig continues, “Maintaining sleep is the most common problem in people with stressful jobs. They wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning to go to the toilet and come back to bed ruminating about how to deal with work issues.”

Finally, Ladwig concludes by saying that these problems are insidious. It is important to remember that the risk comes into play after chronic lack of sleep and chronic stress compound. However, while anyone might be able to remedy one problem or the other, the presence both present exponential: each will increase in a spiral. 

Indeed, work stress can lead to only a 1:6-fold higher risk while poor sleep habits can lead to only a 1:8-fold higher risk.  Other variables like physical activity and diet, as well as blood pressure interventions can also reduce these risks as well. 

The results of this study have been published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.