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Short-term sleep deprivation found to have negative effects on heart function.

Americans have a love affair with caffeine and that could be related to the fact that many don’t get enough sleep. New research indicates that is a deeper problem.

A study presented at the annual meeting for the Radiological Society of North America reported even short-term sleep deprivation has negative health consequences, specifically as it relates to heart function.

CDC poster about sleep deprivationScientists and doctors have known for some time that chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Even short-term sleep deprivation can negatively affect mood, judgment, and the ability to learn and retain information, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. In some fields like medicine, firefighting and emergency medical services, workers commonly work 24-hour shifts with little or no sleep. The new study is the first to look at how short-term sleep deprivation affects the heart.

“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,” study author Daniel Kuetting, MD, said in a press release.

Dr. Kuetting is a radiologist at the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology at the University of Bonn in Bonn, Germany.

Dr. Kuetting and colleagues studied 20 healthy radiologists. The average age of the study participants was 31.6 years. Each study participant completed a cardiovascular MRI study of the heart before and after a 24-hour shift. The doctors also provided blood and urine samples and had blood pressure and pulse rate checks.

The researchers found study participants showed increases in blood pressure and heart rate and systolic strain which is an indication of the stress on the heart muscle fibers. Study participants also had increased levels of thyroid hormones, thyroid stimulating hormone and cortisol. Cortisol is a definitive indicator of stress because levels rise when people are stressed.

“These findings may help us better understand how workload and shift duration affect public health,” Dr. Kuetting said in the press release.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

Information on study funding and conflict of interest was not available.

Radiological Society of North America, “Short-term sleep deprivation affects heart function”
Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, “Consequences of Insufficient Sleep”