A hospital doctor taking notes as paramedics arrive with patient with a heart condition.

Both doctors and paramedics run the risk of heart disease as they work 24-hour shifts.

Suppose you put in an all-nighter at work. From your perspective, sacrificing a couple of hours of sleep is no big deal. You might feel a little sluggish in the morning, but it’s nothing that a cup of coffee can’t fix, right? Unfortunately, that’s where you are wrong. Sleep deprivation does more than just make you tired. Receiving too little sleep can have a negative long-term effect on the body, especially the heart.

The Toll of Working Long Hours

It’s no secret that people in the United States often work too much, but some jobs require that they do so. The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) noticed that a lot of high-stress jobs were taking a toll on workers. These jobs include fire and emergency medical services, as well as medical residencies and more. Often, they have to go above and beyond to fulfill their services, and that requires working up to 24-hour shifts. Doing work like this frequently has some an impact on how the body functions and the RSNA wanted to find out exactly how.

Sleep and the Heart

In a study that included 20 radiologists (19 men and one woman), researcher tested their cardiac function before and after a 24-hour shift. They were able to do this by using a cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging with strain analysis. As predicted, strain, blood pressure, and heart rate increased significantly.

Study author Daniel Kuetting, M.D., from the department of diagnostic and Interventional Radiology at the University of Bonn in Bonn, Germany had this to say: “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.”

While this study needs a larger test base, it shows that further research is warranted. It is also a warning for workers in high-stress positions. The toll sleep deprivation takes on your heart can lead to further complication and if you want to remain healthy for a long time, it may be time to reconsider sleeping less than 3 hours a night.