Question: How does sleep apnea affect my risk of developing an abnormal heart rhythm?
Answer :Sleep apnea or disordered breathing during sleep, resulting in a lower oxygen level, related to sleep apnea can take several forms.
Atrial fibrillation is well recognized to occur in the setting of sleep apnea. It's unknown for sure if it's an independent risk factor for atrial fibrillation, but many investigators do suspect that's true.
In fact in patients undergoing electrical cardioversion, a treatment for atrial fibrillation those subjects who have their sleep apnea treated with CPAP, positive airway pressure have a reduced chance of developing a recurrence of atrial fibrillation. So this is important.
In addition, sleep apnea can increase the risk of developing slow heart rhythms, or bradyarrhythmia like heart block, and again treatment for the sleep apnea with CPAP can decrease the incidence of these arrhythmias.
Another interesting finding that has been demonstrated recently was sudden death in patients with sleep apnea tends to fall a time course of occurring during the night when patients develop low oxygen levels due to sleep apnea, whereas other patients who experience sudden death typically have an increased time occurrence of this during the early morning hours like 6, 8, 9 o'clock in the morning. So that's an interesting difference with sleep apnea.