(HealthDay News) – The risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) is modestly higher for male physicians who sleep ≥8 hours per night, while shorter sleep duration (≤6 hours) is associated with a higher risk of AF in those with sleep apnea, according to a study published in the Feb. 15 issue of The American Journal of Cardiology.

Owais Khawaja, MD, MPH, of the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, and colleagues prospectively studied the association between sleep duration and the incidence AF in a cohort of 18,755 male physicians (average age, 67.7 ± 8.6 years at baseline).

During a mean follow-up of 6.9 ± 2.1 years, the researchers identified 1,468 cases of AF. From the lowest (≤6 hours) to the highest category (≥8 hours) of sleep, the risk of AF increased with sleep duration and was significantly increased for those in the highest category (multivariate adjusted hazard ratio, 1.13). In a secondary analysis, there was no effect modification by adiposity, but prevalent sleep apnea did modify the correlation between sleep duration and AF. For those with prevalent sleep apnea who slept for six hours or less, the multivariate-adjusted hazard ratio for AF was 2.26.

“Our data showed a modestly elevated risk of AF with self-reported long sleep duration among U.S. male physicians,” the authors write. “In a secondary analysis, a short sleep duration was associated with a greater risk of AF in those with sleep apnea but not for those without sleep apnea.”

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