Can’t sleep? You may be at risk for atrial fibrillation

In the journals

If you have problems sleeping through the night, you may be at risk for atrial fibrillation (afib), an irregular heart rate that may cause heart palpitations and is a leading cause of stroke.

A study published online June 25, 2018, by HeartRhythm reviewed four studies and found a link between afib and poor sleep. In one study, people with afib had more frequent nighttime awakenings compared with those who did not have the condition. In the other studies, poor sleep quality, including frequent nighttime awakenings and less REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, predicted which individuals would develop afib.

It's not clear how poor sleep may be a possible risk factor for afib, but the researchers noted that other studies have shown that sleep apnea — a disorder in which your breathing repeatedly stops and restarts — is also associated with a higher risk of afib, although the exact reason is unknown.

They suggested people speak with their doctor about any sleep problems and try to practice better sleep hygiene — for instance by going to bed at the same time each night; creating a dark, cool sleeping environment; and avoiding caffeine and screen time before bedtime.