Poor Sleep Linked to Increased Risk of Atrial Fibrillation, Study Finds
A new study from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) has revealed a concerning link between poor sleep and the risk of atrial fibrillation, a common cardiac arrhythmia. The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Clinical Electrophysiology, suggests that a low-quality night’s rest may be associated with a 15% greater risk of experiencing an episode of atrial fibrillation.
The researchers collected data from 419 patients, using mobile electrocardiograms to measure the episodes and having the participants assess the quality of their sleep each night. The findings indicate that the quality of sleep may be a potentially modifiable trigger for short-term risk of a discrete episode of fibrillation. Additionally, it was revealed that continued poor sleep may be associated with longer episodes of atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation is characterized by a chaotic and disorganized contraction of the atria of the heart, resulting in irregular and high-frequency ventricular contractions. This can lead to a less physiological distribution of blood to the body and an increased risk of cerebral stroke.
The association between sleep-disordered breathing and atrial fibrillation has been known for some time, with numerous cohort studies demonstrating a link between obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and atrial fibrillation. The new study is the first to analyze the relationship between atrial fibrillation and sleep quality, providing convincing evidence that acute interruption of night rest poses a greater risk of short-term atrial arrhythmias.
Dr. Roberto Pedretti, director of the Cardiovascular Department at the IRCSS MultiMedica, suggests that strategies to improve general sleep quality could be useful for the prevention and treatment of atrial fibrillation. In addition to arrhythmia-specific therapies, targeted pharmacological interventions may minimize the risk of an episode of atrial fibrillation after a night of insufficient sleep.
Practical advice to improve sleep quality includes maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bedtime, using the bed only for sleeping, and regular exercise. It is also important to disconnect from electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime to facilitate falling asleep.
The prevalence of atrial fibrillation is 2-4% in the United States and tends to occur more in men, with an increased occurrence with age. In Italy, the disorder affects 1 million people with 120,000 new cases reported annually.
The findings of this study may have important clinical implications and could lead to new strategies for the prevention and treatment of atrial fibrillation. It also emphasizes the importance of improving sleep quality for overall cardiovascular health.