Sleep loss takes a toll on your heart

Short-term sleep loss due to long working hours may adversely affect your heart function, a study has warned.

People who work in fire and emergency medical services, medical residencies and other high-stress jobs are often called upon to work 24-hour shifts with little opportunity for sleep.

“For the first time, we have shown that short-term sleep deprivation in the context of 24-hour shifts can lead to a significant increase in cardiac contractility, blood pressure and heart rate,” said study author Daniel Kuetting from University of Bonn in Germany.

For the study, Kuetting and colleagues recruited 20 healthy radiologists, including 19 men and one woman, with a mean age of 31.6 years.

Each of the study participants underwent cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging with strain analysis before and after a 24-hour shift with an average of three hours of sleep.

The researchers also collected blood and urine samples from the participants and measured blood pressure and heart rate.

Following short-term sleep deprivation, the participants showed significant increases in blood pressure and heart rate.

“The study was designed to investigate real-life work-related sleep deprivation,” Kuetting said.

As people continue to work longer hours or work at more than one job to make ends meet, it is critical to investigate the detrimental effects of too much work and not enough sleep.

The results of this pilot study are transferable to other professions in which long periods of uninterrupted labour are common, Kuetting said.

“These findings may help us better understand how workload and shift duration affect public health,” he noted.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Chicago.

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