Firemen and women, emergency medicine workers, and others in the medical field are often expected to work hours on end without sleep, and it’s no secret that this habit is dangerous to the worker’s health and the health of any patient under their care. But in a new study led by scientists from the University of Bonn, specific connections are being made between sleep deprivation and heart health.
Led by Dr. Daniel Kuetting, MD, the new study is the first to look at individuals working 24-hour shifts and any connection to adverse effects on cardiac function. Kuetting’s study also uniquely incorporated analytic methods not usually used for studying “cardiac function in the context of sleep deprivation.”
Researchers gathered 20 radiologists, an average of 31.6 years old, with no known health problems. They obtained cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) images with strain analysis from each study participant before and after they worked a 24-hour shift and received an average of three hours of sleep. Kuetting says that CMR strain analyses are the most sensitive parameters of cardiac contractility. Participants were not allowed to consume caffeine or anything with theobromine.
Kuetting plans on organizing a larger version of this study with more participants to make better connections between sleep deprivation and long-term health effects. Also, he adds, “we did not take into account factors like individual stress level or environmental stimuli.”
However, the researchers were able to detect significant increases in blood pressure, heart rate, thyroid stimulating hormone, and cortisol, a hormone produced when individuals experience stress.
“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,” Kuetting said.
This small study may not be enough to argue for systemic changes in the schedules of employees in certain fields of work yet, but with a potential larger study in the future, the evidence connecting sleep deprivation and cardiac malfunction may soon be undeniable.
Source: Radiological Society of North America