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Short-Term Sleep Deprivation Impacts Heart Function

Posted on Dec. 5, 2016, 6 a.m. in Cardio-Vascular Sleep

Just one night of sleep deprivation can seriously affect your heart.

According to a recent study, lack of sleep can seriously interfere with normal heart function. Individuals employed in emergency medical services, medical residencies, fire departments and other high-stress jobs are frequently called upon to work 24-hour shifts with little to no opportunity for sleeping. It is fairly common knowledge that exhaustion can cause many mental and physical issues, however this is the first study to explore how working a 24-hour shift specifically affects cardiovascular functioning.

The study showed the effects of short term sleep in a 24 hour period, including heart rate and blood pressure. The study consisted of 20 healthy radiologists, 19 men and one woman, and was conducted by Dr. Kuetting M.D., from the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology at the University of Bonn in Bonn, Germany, and his colleagues.

Each participant was given CMR (Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Imaging) with strain analysis prior to, and after a period of 24 hours, and three hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation affecting cardiac function had not been investigated before with CMR strain analysis. The researchers went a little further and also collected urine and blood samples, in addition to measuring blood pressure and heart rates.

Following the test, participants showed clear increases in mean peak systolic strain and diastolic heart rate and blood pressure. Additionally, there were significant increases in levels of thyroid stimulating hormone, thyroid hormones  FT3 and 4, and cortisol (which a hormone released in resonse to stress). After the study concluded, the researchers were able to perform follow-up exams on half of the participants after obtaining regular sleep. However, Dr. Kuetting states that further study in a larger sitting is needed to pinpoint any further long-term effects from sleep deprivation.

"The study was designed to investigate real-life work-related sleep deprivation," Dr. Kuetting stated. "While the participants were not permitted to consume caffeine or food and beverages containing theobromine, such as chocolate, nuts or tea, we did not take into account factors like individual stress level or environmental stimuli." The effects of lack of sleep people who work long hours or two jobs experience should be investigated. According to Dr. Kuetting, thhe results of this study also apply to other professionals who work long periods of uninterrupted labor. He went on to state that "These findings may help us better understand how workload and shift duration affect public health."

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Presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

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