Struggling to sleep won’t just make you feel like death the next morning—it may actually set up a meeting with the Grim Reaper, suggests new research from the University of Arizona.
In the study, people who suffered from persistent insomnia—trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early over a period of about 6 years—were 58 percent more likely to die of any cause during a 20-year follow-up than those who slept like babies.*
The persistent insomniacs also showed a steeper spike in C-reactive protein levels (CRP)—an important marker of inflammation—in their blood compared to those who never complained of sleep trouble. CRP has been linked to artery blockages, heart attack, and cancer development, says study author Sairam Parthasarathy, M.D.
But the rise in CRP levels likely only accounts for a small portion of the increased risk of death, Dr. Parthasarathy says. The spike might be better explained through a combination of factors that may be elevated in insomniacs, such as other markers of inflammation, as well as indicators of your body’s ability to fight infection and signs of injury to your blood vessel cells.
Researchers plan to closely study insomniacs’ brains to pinpoint the problems. But in the meantime, tell your primary care doctor or sleep specialist if you’re having trouble falling and staying asleep. He or she can help diagnose and treat it, says Dr. Parthasarathy. Your doc will also likely test you for certain conditions that can affect your snoozing, like sleep apnea.
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