Lindsay Wilcox, NBC 5 News
People who regularly have trouble sleeping may have a higher risk of a heart attack, according to a recent study.
Not getting enough sleep could have a serious effect on your heart, according to a recent study.
People who regularly have trouble sleeping may have as much as a 45 percent higher risk of a heart attack, a study published by the American Heart Association says.
Insomnia is the most common sleep problem in America, affecting about 30 percent of adults.
Cardiologists have long been aware of the link between sleep and heart problems.
"We think that lack of sleep leads to lack of energy," said Dr. Paul Aggarwal, of the North Texas Heart Center. "And that, in turn, leads to lack of exercise, maybe weight, and that, in turn, leads to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, maybe diabetes."
But experts who study sleep say it's tough to say if insomnia leads to health problems or vice versa.
"The only sleep issue that I know, clearly, that will affect heart disease is sleep apnea," said Dr. David Luterman, of the Sleep Center at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. "The other ones can be associated with heart disease, but what comes first -- the chicken or the egg -- is very difficult to know."
Doctors agree that people who have trouble sleeping should address it.
They suggest people who have trouble sleeping should work on their sleep hygiene. Make sure the bedroom is for sleep only. Everything from the mattress to the temperature should be comfortable. Experts say people should establish a daily wake time but ignore the clock when it comes to going to bed.
"If you're not sleepy until midnight and you go to sleep at 10, you're probably going to be up for two hours, and that's not healthy," Luterman said.