Health In Focus
  • Research team from the University of California studied the effect of sleep disturbances on risk for atrial fibrillation.
  • Frequent waking during the night increases risk for atrial fibrillation by 26% while insomnia increases the risk by 29%
  • The researchers conclude that a good night’s sleep is essential to lower the risk of rhythm disorder of the heart called atrial fibrillation risk

Sleep disturbances are now found to increase the risk for atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that is known to lead to stroke, heart failure as well as other complications of the heart. Previous studies have shown that sleep apnea or snoring could increase the risk for atrial fibrillation, however, three studies explored the effect of disturbed sleep on the risk for atrial fibrillation.

A research team from The University of California studied three different sources of data to determine the effect of sleep disturbances on atrial fibrillation. They found that atrial fibrillation was associated independently with sleep disturbances, including insomnia. When people woke up frequently at night, there was 26% increased risk of atrial fibrillation when compared with people who did not wake up much during the night.
Insomnia & Sleep disturbances Increases the Risk of Rhythm Disorder of the heart called Atrial Fibrillation.

Further, the researchers found that insomnia increased the risk of atrial fibrillation by 29% when compared with people who did not have insomnia. Insomnia is a condition in which the person is unable to sleep or finds it difficult to go to sleep.

The data on Internet based health eheart study where 4,600 people were analyzed, an 11 year longitudinal study called the Cardiovascular Health study that included 5,700 people. 28% of the study participants developed atrial fibrillation. Sleep Disruptions During Different Phases of Sleep

The researchers studied the effect of sleep disturbances on the different phases of sleep using data from the Cardiovascular Health Study. Sleep disturbances during the phase of rapid eye movement, also called REM at night lead to higher risk of atrial fibrillation.

Lead author of the study Matt Christenson from The University of Michigan said "By examining the actual characteristics of sleep, such as how much REM sleep you get, it points us toward a more plausible mechanism. There could be something particular about how sleep impacts the autonomic nervous system."

Based on the results of the study, the researchers found that the following factors detailed the reason behind sleep disturbances and increased risk of atrial fibrillation.

  • The autonomous nervous system that is affected by disturbances during REM sleep controls blood pressure as well as heart rate.
  • Frequent waking adds additional stress to the heart

Apart from the self-reported studies, the researchers conducted a 10 year follow up study on 1,310 study participants, with an average age of 77 years. After controlling for age, sex, smoking, race, high blood pressure and diabetes, the researchers studied the effect of sleep disturbances and increased risk of atrial fibrillation.

Dr. Gregory Marcus, senior author and cardiologist at the University of California concluded by saying "Ultimately, even without a clear understanding of the responsible mechanisms, we believe these findings suggest that strategies to enhance sleep quality, such as incorporating known techniques to improve sleep hygiene, may help prevent this important arrhythmia."

The study reiterates the importance of a good night's sleep and the health effects that are caused due to a disturbed sleep.

Atrial Fibrillation

  • It is an condition that affects the rhythm of the heart.
  • It is caused due to chaotic electric signals that make the upper chamber of the heart quiver.
  • The upper chamber called the atrium beats much faster than the lower chamber ventricle.
  • Atrial fibrillation increases the risk for a blood clot.
  • If the blood clot gets released, it can lead to a stroke.
  • Atrial fibrillation increases stroke risk by 5 times.
  • 2.5 million people in the U.S are affected by this condition.
  • 33.5 million people are affected across the world.

It is important to detect the cause of atrial fibrillation and to ensure that this health condition is avoided. Atrial fibrillation was earlier associated with sleep apnea. The use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) was found to lower risk by 42%.

In the current study it states that a good night's sleep is essential to wellbeing and any sleep disturbances should be conveyed to a doctor.

Tips for a Good Night's Sleep

  • Stick to a routine bed time. This will help your body get used to a routine.
  • Turn off all lights when going to sleep. Wear eye masks or ear plugs to avoid any disturbance.
  • Don't consume alcohol in the evening.
  • Listen to soothing music before going to bed.
  • Don't go to bed hungry
  • Get good physical exercise during the day but avoid workouts late at night.

References :

  1. Atrial Fibrillation and Sleep Apnea - (

Source: Medindia

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