ECMS researcher finds link between disrupted sleep and increased risk of death

Associate Professor Mathias Baumert and team have, for the first time, discovered a "clear link between the frequency and duration of unconscious wakefulness during night-time sleep and an increased risk of dying from diseases of the heart and blood vessels, and death from any cause, particularly in women".

Sleeping study

As stated in the study, Associate Professor Baumert, from the School of Electrical and Electronic and team:

"conducted a large study involving overnight sleep recordings of 8001 older men and women to measure the burden of brief, unconscious sleep interruptions (‘arousals’).

We found that women who experienced arousals most often and for longer periods had nearly double the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease during an average of between 6 and 11 years’ follow-up when compared to the risk in the general female population.

The association was less clear in men, and their risk of cardiovascular death increased by just over a quarter compared to the general male population."

From: “Sleep arousal burden is associated with long-term all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in 8,001 community-dwelling older men and women”, by Sobhan Salari Shahrbabaki et al. European Heart Journal. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehab151

Where this research will lead in the future

To include assessing arousal burdens into routine strategies for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, we need easily scalable, widely accessible and affordable techniques to estimate the duration and fragmentation of sleep and to detect arousals.

The current study used electroencephalography which is non-invasive – the clinical gold standard – but its application requires trained staff and hence, it is not easily scalable. Wearable devices for measuring brain activity via earplugs or cardiovascular activity and breathing monitoring via smartwatches or fitness trackers may provide an alternative and are the focus of our next project.

Read the full story here

About the researchers

A/Prof Baumert is interested in developing tools for biomedical data processing and applying them to answer important clinical research questions. One of his main focus areas is sleep where large volumes of physiological data are collected overnight, and computer algorithms are required for automated processing and interpretation of data.

View researcher profile

Other researchers involved are:

  • Dr Sobhan Salari Shahrbabaki, University of Adelaide
  • A/Prof Dominik Linz, Maastricht University Medical Centre
  • Mr Simon Hartmann, University of Adelaide
  • Prof Susan Redline, Harvard Medical School
Tagged in Latest News and Achievements, High impact research, research, electrical and mechanical engineering