Obstructive sleep apnea—sleep interrupted by pauses in breathing—has been determined to be a risk factor of atrial fibrillation and its consequences: stroke, heart failure, hypertension. However, in the absence of sleep apnea, the relationship of sleep disturbances and atrial fibrillation was not clear.

Gregory Marcus et al., researchers from the University of California at San Francisco, studied varied data from the Health eHeart study—an Internet-based study of 4,600 participants—the California Healthcare Cost and Utilization project—a hospital-based database of 14 million people followed for 5 years—and a 10year-longitudinal study of almost 6000 patients.

They found that altered sleep, including insomnia, can be independently associated with atrial fibrillation; people that reported frequent episodes of awakening had approximately 26% of increased risk of atrial fibrillation. People with insomnia had a 29% increase risk of developing the condition.The researchers adjusted for the effects of OSA and atrial fibrillation risk factors associated with sleep—age, sex, race, diabetes, high blood pressure.

Some of these patients were also enrolled in the Sleep Heart Health study where almost 1,100 participants were studied for 10 years with these factors: for how long they slept, how well and how long it took them to fall asleep. They studied how much time they had REM sleep compared to non-REM, as the greater amount of deep sleep correlates with a better sense of well-being.

Even though the data is still being processed, researchers believe that good sleep hygiene is fundamental to avoid this dangerous medical condition. That includes avoiding the consumption of too much caffeine, practicing enough physical exercise and relaxation techniques to enter into deep sleep such as the practice of Yoga, considered as a necessary daily co-adjuvant.

In our stressed-out, overworked and rest-deprived modern societies, there is a dire need for healthier sleep routines to avoid the cardiovascular diseases. How about if we start by not bringing the phone, tablet or computer to bed?

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

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