Disrupted sleep can increase risk of death, say researches from University of Adelaide and Maastricht medical centre

April 20, 2021

Disrupted sleep could contribute to a higher risk of death, according to a study.

Research from the University of Adelaide in Australia and Maastricht University Medical Centre in The Netherlands examined the impact of "unconscious wakefulness" on a person's risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases.

The health experts said "arousal burden" is associated with long-term cardiovascular problems and lower mortality in women and to a lesser extent in men.

Sleep arousal is a normal part of sleep but if it accounts for a larger portion of the sleep cycle it can become a problem, according to the study.

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Professor Dominik Linz from the cardiology department at Maastricht University said: "A common trigger for nocturnal arousals is obstructive sleep apnoea when breathing stops and the arousal system ensures the activation of our body to change our sleep position and to reopen the upper airway.

"Another cause of arousals can be noise pollution during the night by, for example, night-time aircraft noise.

"Depending on the strength of the arousal, a person might become consciously aware of the environment, but often that is not the case.

"Typically, people will feel exhausted and tired in the morning because of their sleep fragmentation but will not be aware of the individual arousals."

Common triggers can be sleep apnoea, a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.

The study of 8,000 men and women found women who experience unconscious wakefulness most often and for longer periods had nearly double the risk of dying from a heart problem.

Overall, the risk of dying from any cause was 21% among women in the general population, which increased to 31.5% among women with an arousal burden of more than 6.5%.

The researchers examined people aged between 64 and 84 for six to 11 years.

The team, led by associate professor Mathias Baumert, from the University of Adelaide in Australia, and Professor Linz, found there was an increased risk for men, but it was not statistically significant in some instances.

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