A new study links chronic insomnia with kidney decline and failure, as well as with the risk of early death in the case of United States veterans. Managing long-term sleeplessness may help to stave off such negative health outcomes, the researchers hypothesize.

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How far-reaching are the health effects of chronic insomnia? New research suggests it may increase risk of kidney disease and early death.

Research has identified insomnia as the most common sleep disorder, with around 35.2 percent of adults in the United States reporting short nightly sleep duration, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Sleeplessness is also linked with a large number of health conditions, including depressive symptoms, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Alzheimer’s, to name but a few. On the flip side, recent studies have emphasized the protective quality of a good night’s sleep when it comes to the chronic effects of stress.

A recent study from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, TN, now links insomnia with kidney function decline, kidney failure, and an increased mortality risk.

Drs. Csaba Kovesdy and Jun Ling Lu, the lead researchers involved with the study, focused on the risks posed by chronic insomnia to kidney health, and for this purpose they worked with a large cohort of U.S. veterans.

Their results were presented this week at the American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week 2017.

The researchers studied renal health and all-cause mortality outcomes for a nationwide group of 957,587 veterans with no kidney-related health issues at baseline. Of these, 41,928 participants had chronic insomnia.

To ensure the consistency of the results, adjustments were made for relevant impacting factors, including body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, comorbid conditions, and socioeconomic status.

During a median follow-up period of 6.1 years, 23.1 percent of the study participants died, while 2.7 percent exhibited an accelerated decline of kidney function. Also, 0.2 percent of the participants had kidney failure.

The researchers noted that chronic insomnia was tied to a 1.4 times higher risk of mortality for any cause, as well as a 1.5 times higher risk of kidney decline, and an even steeper increase in risk of kidney failure: 2.4 times.

These results indicate that consistent sleeplessness could play a role in the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD), as well as shorten life expectancy overall.

According to data from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the prevalence of CKD in the overall U.S. population is of approximately 14 percent.

Among the known risk factors for CKD, researchers name obesity, smoking habits, diabetes, and hypertension. If the disease progresses, it could require dialysis or even a kidney transplant.

Dr. Kovesdy and team suggest that their study’s findings should lead to more attentive management of insomnia, as this might have wider reaching benefits in the long run, and help prevent the development of other chronic health conditions, such as CKD.

Chronic insomnia is an important and relatively common condition among patients with normal kidney function. Attention to its proper management could have long-ranging positive effects.”

Dr. Csaba Kovesdy

However, the researchers acknowledge that more in-depth studies are needed to confirm how effective actions targeting chronic insomnia would be in keeping other health conditions at bay.

“This hypothesis will need to be examined in dedicated prospective studies, including clinical trials,” says Dr. Kovesdy.