The incidence of syncope exhibits a daily pattern with more occurrences in the morning, possibly due to influences from the endogenous circadian system and/or the daily pattern of behavioral/emotional stimuli. This study tested the hypothesis that the circadian system modulates cardiovascular responses to postural stress, leading to increased susceptibility to syncope at specific times of day.
Methods and Results
Twelve subjects underwent a 13-day in-laboratory protocol, in which subjects’ sleep-wake cycles were adjusted to 20 hours for 12 cycles. A 15-minute title-table test (60° head-up) was performed ~4.5 hours after scheduled awakening in each cycle so that twelve tests in each subject were distributed evenly across the circadian cycle. Out of 144 tests, signs/symptoms of presyncope were observed in 21 tests in 6 subjects. These presyncope events displayed a clear circadian rhythm (P=0.028) with 17 cases (81%) in the circadian phase range corresponding to ~22:30-10:30 (4.25 times of the probability from the other half of the circadian cycle). Significant circadian rhythms were also observed in hemodynamic and autonomic function markers (blood pressure, heart rate, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and indices of cardiac vagal tone) that may underlie the circadian rhythm of presyncope susceptibility.
The circadian system affects cardiovascular responses to postural stressors resulting in greater susceptibility to presyncope during the biological night. This finding suggests that night-shift workers and people with disrupted sleep at night may have great risk of syncope due to their exposure to postural stressors during the biological night.
Keywords: syncope, circadian rhythm, cardiovascular response