Sleep is essential to and an integral part of life and when lacking or disrupted, a multitude of mental and physical pathologies ensue, including cardiovascular (CV) disease, which increase health care costs. Several prospective studies and meta-analyses show that insomnia, short (<7h) or long (>9h) sleep and other sleep disorders are associated with an increased risk of hypertension, metabolic syndrome, myocardial infarction, heart failure, arrhythmias, CV disease risk and/or mortality. The mechanisms by which insomnia and other sleep disorders lead to increased CV risk may encompass inflammatory, immunological, neuro-autonomic, endocrinological, genetic and microbiome perturbations. Guidelines are emerging that recommend a target of >7 h of sleep for all adults >18 years for optimal CV health. Treatment of sleep disorders includes cognitive-behavioral therapy considered the mainstay of non-pharmacologic management of chronic insomnia, and drug treatment with benzodiazepine receptor agonists binding to gamma aminobutyric acid type A (benzodiazepine and non-benzodiazepine agents) and some antidepressants. However, observational studies and meta-analyses indicate an increased mortality risk of anxiolytics and hypnotics, although bias may be involved due to confounding and high heterogeneity in these studies. Nevertheless, it seems that the risk incurred by the non-benzodiazepine hypnotic agents (Z drugs) may be relatively less than the risk of anxiolytics, with evidence indicating that at least one of these agents, zolpidem, may even confer a lower risk of mortality in adjusted models. All these issues are herein reviewed.
Keywords: sleep, sleep disorders, insomnia, cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular mortality, myocardial infarction, short sleep, long sleep, daytime napping, siesta
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