What are the Connections between Sleep Apnea and Afib?

Sleep apnea is one of the most common conditions affecting adults in the United States. According to the National Institute of Health, an estimated 2.5 million people in the US suffer from this disease. Sleep apnea is a condition that occurs during sleep when the person’s upper airway is blocked temporarily reducing or, even, completely halting airflow. Breathing may then become either slow or momentarily stopped completely. Then breathing abruptly starts again, often with a sudden gasp.

If sleep apnea is left untreated, the results may be increased risk for diabetes, heart attack, glaucoma or, even, cancer. It is currently believed that there is a causative relationship between sleep apnea and afib, and studies are underway to understand the connection. According to the NIH, as many as half of all afib patients also have sleep apnea (32 to 49 %.) While the link between sleep apnea and afib is not completely understood, the relationship between the two indicates a likely connection. As a result, if you believe you may have sleep apnea, you should also be evaluated for afib. Dr. Shanti Bansal, Houston’s top electrophysiologist is available at Atrial Fibrillation Center of America to discuss afib, sleep apnea, and provide a complete medical evaluation.

Research indicates that afib is triggered by sleep apnea, although the causes are not fully understood. Episodes of sleep apnea are believed to cause changes in both cardiac function and heart structure. The repeated incidences of startled awakening and changes in airway pressures cause increases in the size and shape of the upper chamber of the heart, the atria. Apnea has been recorded as triggering inflammation which can also be a cause of afib. In total, changes arising out of sleep apnea appear to increase the likelihood of a patient experiencing an afib episode or of developing afib.

The following symptoms are indicators that tell you it is time to discuss sleep apnea with a medical professional. Being evaluated for sleep apnea may also reveal that afib is also present. These symptoms include:

  • Waking in the morning with a headache,
  • Feeling just as tired in the morning as when you went to bed the night before,
  • Snoring loudly enough to wake your bed partner,
  • Waking suddenly in the night while gasping for air, and
  • On a regular basis being tired and sleepy throughout the day.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it may be time to check with your primary care physician to discuss the possibilities of having sleep apnea. And, because sleep apnea is closely associated with afib, it is also a good idea to set an appointment with the physicians at Atrial Fibrillation Center of America to assess your risk of having afib. Treatments are available for either or both conditions. It has been shown that treating sleep apnea helps alleviate afib. Should you have afib then following the prescribed treatment plan not only helps lessen the effects of apnea but also reduces the risks of afib episodes.

If you have or believe you may have, afib, especially if you also have sleep apnea, then you should visit with the professionals at the Atrial Fibrillation Center of America. Dr. Shanti Bansal, Houston’s top electrophysiologist can assess your condition and develop a treatment plan that compliments any sleep apnea treatments you may be undergoing. Working with your sleep specialist, Dr. Bansal can help you achieve your best possible health outcome. Feel free to call our offices for questions or to set an appointment. Our professional and friendly staff will be glad to assist you, 832-478-5067.

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