Researchers claim interrupted sleep could cause irregular heartbeat
Poor sleepers are at greater risk of an irregular heartbeat which can raise the chances of a heart attack or stroke, a study has found.
Atrial fibrillation – an irregular heartbeat – affects one in 40 people, meaning there are about 1.4million sufferers in England.
US researchers have now found regular interrupted sleep could lead to the condition by putting stress on the body and causing electrical changes in the heart.
The problem seems to stem from the disruption of ‘deep’ REM sleep. Analysis of four studies covering more than 14million patients showed people who did not sleep through the night increased their chances of an irregular heartbeat by a third.
While atrial fibrillation (AF) had been linked to sleep apnoea, where the throat closes and stops people breathing normally while asleep, this review, published in the journal Heart Rhythm, was the first to show ordinary sleeplessness could raise the risk.
Lead investigator Dr Gregory Marcus, from the University of California, San Francisco, said: ‘It’s possible that improving sleep hygiene, such as performing exercise, getting to bed at a reasonable hour on a regular basis, and avoiding viewing screens before bed as well as caffeine later in the day, might help stave off AF.
‘We need to detect people with an irregular heartbeat and then ensure they are getting the right care and treatment to reduce their risk of having a stroke.’