Obstructive Sleep Apnea Is Common in Atrial Fibrillation Patients: Study

sleep apnea atrial fibrillationObstructive sleep apnea occurs when breathing stops and starts during sleep. The condition has the potential to become highly dangerous, as the lack of oxygen can eventually cause serious cardiovascular and cerebrovascular complications.

In this line of thinking, it has been proposed that obstructive sleep apnea may play a role in causing and worsening cardiovascular conditions, including atrial fibrillation or an irregular heartbeat. While this may be the case, obstructive sleep apnea is not a common diagnosis alongside atrial fibrillation, leading some academics to believe that the condition is going unidentified and, therefore, untreated.


Obstructive sleep apnea is a fairly common condition, affecting 25 percent of adult males and nine percent of adult females. The condition is often reported alongside cardiovascular problems. Due to its commonality, determining the connection between obstructive sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation is highly important, so that proper treatment plans can be implemented for patients suffering from both conditions simultaneously.

New research in this area has focused on determining whether obstructive sleep apnea was more prevalent in atrial fibrillation patients than in the general population. A new study exploring this hypothesis used adult atrial fibrillation patients to test their theory. Participants were excluded from the experiment if they had previously received a diagnosis of obstructive sleep disorder, had participated in a sleep lab within the six months prior to the experiment, or were unable to provide informed consent on the above.

Vast Majority of Atrial Fibrillation Patients Suffer from Sleep Apnea

The total number of participants that completed the study was 100. Obstructive sleep disorder was observed in 85 percent of the participants, although no previous diagnosis existed in any of the patients. The condition, as is demonstrated in the global population, was more prevalent in the male participants than the females. Those participants suffering from obstructive sleep apnea showed significant demographic differences from those without the condition. The sleep disorder group was typically older than the atrial fibrillation only group and also showed a higher average BMI than the others, with a 40 percent rate of obesity.

This study showed a significantly increased rate of obstructive sleep apnea in the sample population of atrial fibrillation patients, when compared to the statistics for the condition in the documented global population. Sleep apnea was found in 91 percent of the male patients and 70 percent of the female patients with atrial fibrillation, demonstrating the hypothesis that obstructive sleep apnea is more prevalent in patients with atrial fibrillation.

This research reinforces the previously theorized relationship between sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation. The results of the research suggest that obstructive sleep apnea is severely underdiagnosed in patients with atrial fibrillation. More than three-quarters of the experimental participants were revealed to be suffering from sleep apnea, though they were all undiagnosed at the outset of the study, indicating that screenings for sleep apnea in atrial fibrillation patients are not being performed as often as they should. Further research will be required to determine the effects of certain treatments on the conditions in conjunction with one another.

Also read: A 6-Minute Walk Test Can Predict Severity of Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Study

Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.



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