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What Really Causes Insomnia, Why It Leads To Heart Attack And Stroke And How to Avoid It

Insomnia Heart Attack Stroke

Think there's no connection between insomnia and your lifestyle habits? Recent research sheds some light on how and why insomnia really occurs and how its linked to heart attacks and stroke.


The million dollar question has always been “What causes Insomnia?” In the search for answers, a recent study published in the European Journal Of Preventative Cardiology analyzed fifteen studies and made an association between insomnia and the incidence of death from cardiovascular disease.

While it didn’t show a causative relationship to insomnia and heart disease and stroke, the study found a consistent link between insomnia and a person having a heart attack or stroke.

The researchers analyzed fifteen studies of 160,867 people. They were followed for an average of three to 29.6 years, examining the relationship between insomnia and incidence of or death from cardiovascular disease. The study noted significant and consistent associations between difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, non-restorative sleep and an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

So, What Causes Insomnia?

Generally, the causes of insomnia have always been related to stress, having a lot on one’s mind, upset, and worry etc. While these may be legitimate causes of insomnia there is a physiological element to insomnia that is often overlooked according to a recent study that has made the connection between insomnia and digestive disturbances. When there is unrest in the body’s processes, insomnia is a very real result.

The Main Cause Of Insomnia Is Indigestion

The main cause for failing asleep and being awakened in the middle of the night is indigestion. Not the type of indigestion that you consciously feel – the kind of indigestion that is occurring during digestion. To illustrate, if you’re the type that’s active during the day and you throw back breakfast, lunch and dinner and you’ve been on the move, your body hasn’t had the chance to digest the day’s meals. This is because digestion only occurs when you rest. So, if you’re active digestion stops and you carry food around all day in your stomach. Some people feel this, other do not, but after that last meal of the day, when you finally lay down and go to bed, your body, in its attempt to do its eliminative and healing work, is going to instead begin the process of digestion. This silent indigestion caused by food moving through the digestive tract can wake you up.

Here’s What Doesn’t Happen When Your Body Is Digesting at Night And How It Negatively Affects Health

The intricate and very complex process of digestion takes up a majority of the body’s energy. That being said, if you overeat, stuff yourself, and improperly combine your foods when eat your meals during the day, there’s a good chance the process of digestion will occur (or complete) during the night when you sleep. This robs your body of healing time.

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To explain lets day you had a day of light meals and lots of rest in between those meals, and your body did its digestive work during the day. When you head off sleep, not only will your sleep be more peaceful, your body is better able to do its eliminative, healing and restorative work because it isn’t using all its energy on the process of digestion. This simple bad habit of eating on the go and unrest between meals lays the groundwork for disease as we’ve seen in the study over time.

Emotions Do Play A Big Role In Indigestion

It’s important to realize the role of your emotions on the digestive process. Your emotions affect whether or not you digest. So if you’ve got a stressful job, eat light, and have time to sit around after meals, your emotional unrest will still cause digestion to stop.

Similarly, if you’re consistently aggravated, or get bad news during the day that causes upset, all of your body’s energy and blood flow will redirect from digesting and move to the brain, leaving the process of digestion to occur during the night, causing insomnia and interrupting sleep.

Cardiovascular Disease And Stroke Are Years In The Making

In laying the groundwork for disease, it should be noted that cardiovascular disease and strokes or any disease for that matter, do not just occur spontaneously – they are years in the making. Therefore, diseases such as heart disease and stroke as mentioned, can a do occur over time and stem from poor lifestyle and dietary habits according to a http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2608221 study published in JAMA, on the Association Between Dietary Factors and Mortality From Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes in the United States.

How To Ensure Better Sleep

The best selling diet, nutrition and weight loss book EAT! – Empower. Adjust. Triump!: Lose Ridiculous Weight, poignantly addresses the importance of eating as it relates to digestion and insomnia in this excerpt:

“If the body is digesting continually, nerve energy is wasted and other bodily functions will operate at a deficit. An example of this would be the brain. There’s a saying that goes like this: “A full stomach does not like to think.” Think about how you feel after a meal. You may or may not notice, but concentration becomes lessened or even difficult on a full stomach. The reason the brain cannot think on a full stomach is primarily due to the process of digestion. Digestion is such a massive effort for the body that it requires a fundamental use of blood flow. This means less blood flow goes to the brain, resulting in lower concentration and an inability to focus.

Your body requires rest for digestion to begin. This is why leaving time between meals is so important. Should your body not get the opportunity to completely digest its meals throughout the day, it will begin the process of digestion at night. If meals are improperly combined, this process will take longer and indigestion may occur. Incidentally, indigestion is the number one cause of insomnia in the world. Indigestion has an adverse effect on weight-loss by causing the body to hold on to weight.

In the end, eating should be a slow and purposeful process, while digestion and elimination should be rather speedy. Your gut health is solely dependent on what you eat. That said; empower yourself by understanding the following digestion facts:

  • The human body does well on one to three completely digested, nutritious meals per day. Good digestion requires time between meals, which is why it’s essential not to overeat. We have to give the body time to digest and do its nutritive work. This is one of the main reasons diets that require five to six small meals a day can stall weight-loss efforts.
  • Gut health is paramount to good digestion, and good digestion is paramount to absorption.
  • Both gut health and good digestion are linked to your health and weight-loss in a big way.
  • Gut health cannot be permanently corrected by supplementation. The belief that poor eating can be corrected simply by taking a vitamin or probiotic provides a false sense of security, allowing you to continue a crappy diet. While a probiotic may seem to relieve a symptom, over time it will not heal the gut. Only proper diet will heal the gut.”

If Your Digestion Is In Question…

In understanding what causes insomnia and how disease can develop in a body that habitually loses its healing and restorative time because of the important and necessary process of digestion, does shed some light on the importance of creating lifestyle habits that maintain physiological homeostasis.

If your digestion is in question and you aren’t getting adequate sleep – work with your Naturopath, a Holistic Nutrition Expert and/or your Practitioner to discover ways to improve your diet and living habits to lower the amount your overall amounts of both physiological, physical and emotional stress and find a balance of these that works for you. You’ll sleep better for it.