Sleep-Disordered Breathing Increases AFib Risk

Medically Reviewed

Older men with sleep-disordered breathing have a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation (AFib), a common heart condition that can increase the prevalence of stroke, a study in the April 2016 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine suggests.

The study showed that in older men, two sleep abnormalities—central sleep apnea and Cheyne-Stokes respiration—predicted a higher risk of atrial fibrillation.

The study of 843 men found that those who had central sleep apnea were 2.58 times more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than those without the condition. Participants who had central sleep apnea and Cheyne-Stokes respiration were 2.27 times more likely to develop atrial fibrillation.

Patients who enrolled in the study at age 76 and older and had obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by a blockage of the upper airway, were found to have a 22 percent greater incidence of atrial fibrillation with each five-unit increase in the apnea-hypopnea index, a tool used to indicate the severity of sleep apnea.

While more research is needed to determine if the findings apply to younger people or women, central sleep-disordered breathing should be considered in the diagnosis and treatment of atrial fibrillation and its associated health conditions.