Current research shows a clear relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and heart arrhythmias, especially atrial fibrillation. People with OSA are at an increased risk for developing heart arrhythmias, which increases their risk for other cardiac-related events, such as heart attacks and blood clots.
An arrhythmia is simply an irregular heart rhythm. When the chambers of the heart contract out-of-sync with the others, the heart may not be able to effectively pump blood to the rest of the body (including the heart muscle itself) or blood may not effectively be expelled from the chambers, allowing clots to form.
The link between obstructive sleep apnea and arrhythmias is complicated, but research clearly indicates that treatment for OSA improves the prognosis for arrhythmia patients. Sleep apnea treatment lowers the likelihood of the recurrence of atrial fibrillation after cardioversion, a procedure in which the heart muscle is shocked to “reboot” the heart into a normal rhythm.
On the other hand, untreated OSA increases the chances of recurrence of atrial fibrillation. Insufficient blood flow is also linked to lower blood oxygen saturation, and there are a number of health consequences when entire organ systems are oxygen-deprived.
Sleep apnea testing is becoming routine for patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. However, if your cardiologist or electrophysiologist has not yet suggested a sleep study, contact Neurology & Sleep Medicine. Our sleep specialist, Dr. Senthil Ramasamy, can diagnose and treat OSA so that you can get better sleep and enjoy the decreased risk of health complications associated with arrhythmia.