Just one night of sleep deprivation is enough to cause strain on the heart – forcing it to work around 10 per cent harder the next day, a new study has shown.
People who work in fire and emergency medical services and other high-stress jobs are often called upon to work 24-hour shifts with little opportunity for sleep.
While it is known that extreme fatigue can affect many physical, cognitive and emotional processes, it is the first study to examine how working a 24-hour shift specifically affects heart function.
“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 Dr Daniel Kuetting, of the University of Bonn in Bonn, Germany.
For the study, 20 healthy radiologists, including 19 men and one woman, with a mean age of 31.6 years were recruited and their hearts checked before and after a 24 hour shift, with an average of three hours of sleep.
The researchers measured the strain on the heart as well as blood pressure and heart rate.