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Insomnia is bad for the heart

This press release is available in French.

Montreal, September 4, 2009 Can't sleep at night? A new study published in the journal Sleep has found that people who suffer from insomnia have heightened nighttime blood pressure, which can lead to cardiac problems. The investigation, which measured the 24-hour blood pressure of insomniacs compared to sound sleepers, was conducted by researchers from the Universit de Montral, its affiliated Hpital du Sacr-Cur de Montral Sleep Disorders Centre and the Universit Laval.

"Over many years, chronic insomnia can have negative effects on the hearts of otherwise healthy individuals," says lead author Paola A. Lanfranchi, a professor in the Universit de Montral Faculty of Medicine and researcher at the Hpital du Sacr-Cur de Montral Sleep Disorders Centre. "Whereas blood pressure decreases in regular sleepers and gives their heart a rest, insomnia provokes higher nighttime blood pressure that can cause long-term cardiovascular risks and damage the heart."

The findings are important given that insomnia, which is a chronic difficulty falling or staying asleep, affects up to 48 percent of the population at some point in their lives. As part of the study, the scientific team recruited 13 otherwise healthy chronic insomniacs and 13 good sleepers. Subjects spent 40 hours in the sleep laboratory: two nights for adaptation and one for monitoring followed by the intervening day.

"Blood pressure cycles are mainly linked to the sleep-wake cycle," says co author Jacques Montplaisir, a professor in the Universit de Montral Department of Psychiatry and director of Hpital du Sacr-Cur de Montral Disorders Center. "Since blood pressure is heightened among insomniacs, those with overt cardiac disease are particularly at risk for progression of the disease."


Contact: Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins
University of Montreal

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