Stress and Insomnia
Aside from the predictable drowsiness and fatigue, insomnia can result in severe health problems. Sleep deprivation is known to increase the risk of hypertension, heart attacks, and depression. Stress is the top cause of insomnia and insomnia is a common source of stress. The correlation between the two creates a nasty cycle that makes it challenging to find out which was an issue first. Combining more stress and less sleep will present with many health struggles.
Several studies have confirmed that long-term sleep deprivation increases the risk of hypertension. They found that people under 60 who slept less than six hours a night had more than double the risk of high blood pressure, compared to those who slept more than six hours (Rosch 4). High blood pressure leads to thickening of the blood vessel walls. When combined with cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels, the risk of heart attack and stroke increases (Hypertensive).
Many heart attack patients experience insomnia prior to the actual attack. One survey showed that nearly half of the participants woke up frequently during the two weeks before their attack. Broken sleep means not feeling rested or energized, and can also cause stress, which can raise blood pressure and possibly lead to a heart attack.
The quality and type of sleep we get are also important. If our REM sleep is disrupted one night, our bodies don't follow the normal sleep cycle the next time we doze off. Instead, we often slip directly into REM sleep and go through drawn-out periods of REM until we "catch up" on this stage of sleep (Brain basics). REM sleep usually occurs right before waking up in the morning. It brings a rise in stress related hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that increase blood pressure and heart rate.