Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has the potential to increase the development of atrial fibrillation (AFib) according to research that was presented at the American Thoracic Society, 2017 International Conference. AFib is a very common cardiac arrhythmia. It shows up as a rapid/irregular heartbeat, and it has the potential to lead to strokes and other heart problems.

“There is strong biologic plausibility that obstructive sleep apnea may increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation through a number of mechanisms,” says one of the authors of the research, Tetyana Kendzerska, MD, PhD, who is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa in Canada.

The researchers reviewed 8,256 adults with average age of 47. They had possible untreated OSA without any doctor diagnosed AFib. Out of these 8256, 173 developed AFib requiring hospitalization during the follow up period of 13 years. The best predictors of AFib were severity of OSA and the time oxygen level in the blood was at less than 90% saturation. Oxygen desaturation was found to be the best predictor of AFib; it is a stronger predictor in women than in men.

OSA is a very serious problem. It is usually accompanied with loud snoring and involves partial and/or total airway collapse during sleep. These collapses of the airway for over 10 seconds in OSA sometimes occur as many as a hundred times or more per night in many patients. And during these episodes of no oxygen, the heart sometimes goes FLATLINE!  These airway blockages can cause many physiological changes in AFib patients and these changes are linked to many medical problems which you can find on my website —

“Other studies have shown that women with sleep apnea are at greater risk of cardiovascular consequences, including mortality,” says another author of the research Richard S. Leung, MD, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.