Sleep disturbance among people grieving the recent loss of a spouse may put them at increased risk for cardiovascular illness and death, a study has warned.
Recently widowed people are more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, that may lead to increased levels of inflammation in the body.
Higher levels of inflammation may in turn increase risk for heart diseases, showed the findings published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
The study found that the link between sleep disturbances and inflammation was two to three times higher for the bereaved spouses.
"The death of a spouse is an acutely stressful event and they have to adapt to living without the support of the spouse," said Diana Chirinos from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, US.
"Add sleep disturbance to their already stressful situation and you double the stressor. As a result, their immune system is more overactivated," Chirinos said.
The study included 101 people with an average age of 67. Half were bereaved (identified through obituaries), and the rest were included in a control group.
The researchers compared the self-reported sleep habits of recently widowed people to the control group. Both the groups had sleep disturbances.
The researchers found that the link between sleep disturbances and inflammation was two to three times higher for the bereaved spouses.
Inflammation was measured by the level of proinflammatory cytokines, which are designed to be short-term fighters of disease but are linked to long-term risk for health problems including cardiovascular disease.
Bereaved individuals are more susceptible to the negative health effects of poor sleep, the study said.