This sleep issue may increase risk of heart rhythm disorders

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Younger adults who experience insomnia may face an elevated risk of developing atrial fibrillation (AFib) earlier in life, according to a comprehensive study involving military veterans, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

This provides further insight into sleep disturbances and disorders being a potential early risk factor for cardiovascular issues.

Noteworthy Findings

Atrial fibrillation involves an irregular heart rhythm and is typically diagnosed post-60, posing risks such as blood clots and heart failures.

Over 16 years, 1 million veterans were studied, with 11% diagnosed with insomnia. The cohort presented a 32% higher risk of AFib compared to those without insomnia, even after accounting for other risk factors.

On average, veterans with insomnia were diagnosed with AFib more than two years earlier than their counterparts – at 42.8 years versus 45.1.

Being male and having a history involving obesity, alcohol abuse, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart failure, and psychiatric disorder were found to elevate AFib risk.

Unique Considerations for Veterans:

Lead study author Dr. Allison Gaffey underscores that while veterans present unique health risk variables, such as higher susceptibility to psychiatric conditions, traumatic brain injuries, and chronic pain which could impact sleep.

The findings herald an imperative to explore the relationship between insomnia and cardiovascular risk across different demographics.

Medical Community Perspectives

Despite not being part of the study, Cardiologist Dr. Jose Joglar asserts that while further research is required to confirm the causal relationship between insomnia and AFib, existing evidence supporting the detrimental effects of poor sleep on heart health is compelling enough to encourage those experiencing insomnia to seek medical intervention.

Recommendations and Forward Path

In alignment with the American Heart Association’s addition of sleep to its “Life’s Essential 8” list, advocating for seven to nine hours of sleep per night, the findings spotlight the pivotal role of sleep in overall health.

Dr. Gaffey suggests proactive management of stress and anxiety, which are frequent culprits of sleep issues, as an initial step.

Should issues persist, consulting healthcare professionals and exploring interventions ranging from cognitive-behavioral therapy, lifestyle adjustments, and potential sleep apnea evaluations might be prudent.


This study illuminates the vital link between sleep and cardiovascular health, underlining the necessity of integrated healthcare approaches that encompass sleep management as a pivotal element in early prevention and holistic health strategies, especially concerning younger adults.

The research also paves the way for future studies to further delve into the complexities and multifaceted impact of sleep on our overall health trajectory.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk, and herbal supplements could harm your heart rhythm.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about how drinking milk affects risks of heart disease and cancer, and results showing DASH diet is good for your blood pressure, and vegetable diet may reduce heart disease risk.

The research findings can be found in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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