There’s a strong link between sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation.
Sleep apnea is a reasonably common sleep disorder. During sleep, your breathing pauses or stops.
This happens through the night, and can result in poor sleep quality. Every time your breathing is disrupted you are jolted out of deep sleep and into either shallow sleep or wakefulness. It’s difficult to diagnose: no blood test can pick it up.
Snoring is the most common symptom, so sometimes family and friends do notice a problem. However, getting a firm diagnosis usually involves going to a sleep center so that doctors can observe you through the night.
Sleep apnea doesn’t “cause” afib per se. But if you have sleep apnea you could be at risk for developing afib, and if you have afib you might well have sleep apnea. They both share many of the same risk factors as well, which helps explain the intense correlation.
Roughly half of persons with obstructive sleep apnea also have atrial fibrillation; and afib patients have an abnormally high prevalence of co-existing sleep apnea – as high as 81.6 percent, according to one study. Moreover, treatment of afib tends to be more successful when co-existing sleep apnea is treated and less successful when it is not.
Researchers are already trying to track the link between sleep apnea and all kinds of other heart diseases as well.
Sleep apnea can be treated. Many patients benefit from a CPAP machine, which is a mask attached to a machine that forces air through the nose and mouth during sleep. In fact, sleep apnea is easier to treat than afib is! If you aren’t already being treated for sleep apnea you might talk to your doctor about getting some tests.
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