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Middle-aged Women’s Irregular Sleep Tied to Heart Problems

Irregular Sleep Habits in Middle-Aged Women Linked to Cardiovascular Issues

Women experiencing severe insomnia are at an elevated risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Continue reading for further details.”Cardiovascular diseases”

Inadequate sleep and sleep disturbances during middle age can increase the likelihood of women developing cardiovascular disease.

A study published in the Circulation Journal by the American Heart Association revealed that approximately half of women in this age group report difficulties with sleep, and cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death among them.

Middle age, spanning from 40 to 65 years, is a critical period for both heart health and sleep quality. Particularly during menopause, women frequently encounter heightened risks of heart attacks. This transitional phase often brings about increased cardiovascular risks for women.

The Study

The researchers of the study investigated whether changes in sleep patterns during middle age could be associated with heart problems later in life.

Despite the lack of knowledge about the long-term impact of sleep issues in middle-aged women on their risk of heart disease, the study aimed to address this gap.

The study involved participants from the SWAN (Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation) prospective cohort, who were monitored for their sleep patterns over a span of 22 years, with up to 16 assessments conducted.

The research included 2,964 individuals aged between 42 and 52 from seven different locations across the United States, starting from 1996.

The women enrolled in the SWAN study were without prior cardiovascular disease, not using hormone medication, and in either the premenopausal or early perimenopausal stages.

Throughout more than 16 visits, participants completed questionnaires covering aspects such as mood, vasomotor symptoms, sleep duration, and signs of insomnia.

Researchers utilized group-based trajectory modeling to analyze sleep patterns, considering factors like duration and symptoms of insomnia.

The association between these sleep trajectories and cardiovascular disease risk was evaluated using Cox proportional hazards models, adjusting for variables such as location, age, ethnicity, education, and cardiovascular disease risk factors.

After conducting a review spanning more than two decades, researchers identified four categories of insomnia symptoms experienced by women: low symptoms (39%), moderate symptoms decreasing over time (19%), low symptoms increasing over time (20%), and consistently high symptoms (23%).

Women who consistently experienced high levels of insomnia had a 1.71 times greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those with low symptoms.

Analysis of sleep duration revealed three patterns: consistently short (5 hours, 15%), moderate (6 hours, 55%), and moderate to long (8 hours, 30%).

Women with persistently short sleep had a 1.51 times higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, those with both chronic high insomnia and short sleep faced a 1.75 times higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Even after adjusting for factors such as vasomotor symptoms, snoring, or depression, the association between insomnia and cardiovascular disease remained significant.

A notable strength of this study is its comprehensive approach, tracking sleep patterns across 16 assessments over two decades in middle-aged women.

Unlike previous studies that examined the link between sleep and heart risk at one point in time, this study covers the entire span of middle age, offering valuable insights into the connection between chronic poor sleep and cardiovascular disease risk, particularly among older women.


The study also presents certain limitations, such as the focus on the group with moderate to long sleep (approximately 7.70 hours), which may restrict conclusions regarding even longer sleep durations. Moreover, the study solely examined insomnia and sleep duration, overlooking other sleep aspects like timing and regularity.

Future research is encouraged to delve into both timing and regularity of sleep.

This extensive two-decade investigation involving middle-aged women unveiled that persistent sleep troubles, particularly when coupled with consistently short sleep, raised the risk of heart disease by 70% to 75%.

These findings underscore the importance of considering sleep patterns when assessing heart disease risk in women and underscore the impact of prolonged poor sleep on heart health.

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