AF link with Sleep Apnoea

I don't fit the normal profile for sleep apnoea (healthy weight, non-smoker, occasional drinker etc) but I am convinced that my AF is linked to an occasional problem I have with Sleep Apnoea. I have woken from my sleep on a number of occasions struggling to catch my breath, heart racing fast and aware that I have stopped breathing for a while. This only happens when I sleep on my back. Has anyone here got experience of a similar sleep/AF connection?

15 Replies

  • Romeo,

    The link between sleep apnea and AF is well documented. A sleep study was the first thing my EP ordered for my AF.


  • Thanks Tim. Just a few queries:

    1. Is apnoea your AF trigger?

    2. How is your apnoea treated?

    3. I'm a light, restless sleeper, how does a sleep study work if the patient cannot sleep?

  • Romeo,

    I can't say for sure (because I'm asleep when it happens) But I have woke up many times in the middle of the night after going into AF.

    If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea they normally will order a CPAP machine. You have to sleep with it on. It basically pressurizes your airway which stops it from closing up and cutting off your breathing. Also stops snoring which normally happens for the same reasons.

    I'm not sure how it would work with being a light sleeper. They put a bunch of wires on you and you go to sleep. They monitor everything including oxygen levels and watch you on camera to see how you sleep. With me, in 4 hours I stopped breathing over 35 times for at least 30 seconds each time and my oxygen level went from 98% to 89%. They don't want to use any drugs (unless you take them nightly) because they want to see what happens when in your normal sleep pattern. Then they woke me up at 3:30am and had me put on the CPAP device. In the next 2 hours I did not stop breathing again.

    But Sleep Apnea is not the only thing that causes AF, So a CPAP machine may help stop the night time attacks but you could still have other triggers during the day.


  • Thanks Tim.

    I must explore the apnoea link. In advance of getting screened would I be correct in thinking that sleeping on my side would benefit the apnoea (I know sleeping on left side is allegedly a trigger for AF but it seems to prevent snoring/closing off of airway).

  • Most say that sleeping on your back is worse but I sleep on my side and still had it.


  • Here is a link to an article about the link between AF and Sleep Apnea


  • Hi, my cardio had me checked for sleep Apnea after my AF was diagnosed. The result was positive and I now use a APAP machine at night. This feeds positive pressure air at the correct pressure automatically sensing my breathing patterns. I bought this machine in preference to the normal NHS CPAP machine. I feel much better during the day as my sleep pattern is not being affected by gulping for air during the night. I would recommend this treatment for Apnea. You have to get used to wearing a mask but stick with it.


  • Hi Ken

    A few years ago, before getting paroxysmal AF, I was tested overnight in a specialist centre for sleep apnea due to my pattern of snoring, waking up in the night etc, though like you I am not overweight and am a non smoker. The test was inconclusive because I could not get to sleep at all during the test what with all the wires and hospital environment. Although the test was inconclusive I was put on an NHS CPAP machine, but I could not sleep at all with the CPAP in spite of persevering for several weeks, so discontinued it. 3 years later I developed AF and feel there must be a connection although the arrhythmia clinic I attend has not suggested it.

    Can you let me know the make and model of the non NHS CPAP machine you have bought because now that I have AF I would be interested in trying again.


  • Hi Michael,

    My machine is the Apex ICH Auto. I use the Mirage Quattro FX CPAP mask. Both were purchased. This can be expensive but to me the advantages out weigh the cost. I have attached a link were I bought these items. The machine might have been superseded by now. But you need an automatic machine that controls the pressure depending on air resistance in the mask. I have tried a number of masks of different types but the above beats them all and I can live with it. It is light and relatively comfortable. The types with the head clamps I cannot live with.

    The machine does not change or effect the AF, but you feel a lot fresher and better when awake.

    Hope this helps


  • Many thanks Ken for this response. I shall look into all this again based on your feedback. Very helpful.


  • Hi

    I've posted on here before something similar but got little to no response! I've had that experience a few times and its alarming. Like you I'm a very healthy weight, non smoker, fit, mild alcohol consumption...I went to my GP about it and he checked my throat, airways etc...said it's almost certainly not Sleep Apnoea. He felt is was probably stress or anxiety related which is a fairly common complaint. I'm not so sure...I'm seeing my EP in early August and will certainly be raising it then.

    I would research the stress/anxiety route; quite a bit of info on it..

    Cheers, Jamie

  • Thanks everyone.

    I'm particulary concerned at how GP's abuse the stress/anxiety diagnosis. I spent years attending my local GP with complaints of dizziness and irregular heartbeat and was consistently told it was stress/anxiety, when I now understand it was likely to have been AF.

    Although I do not fit the profile for apnoea, I maintain that all cases of suspected apnoea should be investigated. I'll be following this up myself.

  • This was a strange point in time that this post came up I booked see my GP today as I seem to be having this a lot since my failed ablation. The sudden lose of breath wakes me with a real gasping for a few seconds to such a degree it has woken the wife.

  • thanks romeo for your query. I wake up between 5 & 6 am, dizzy & sever stomach ache. this lasts until mid afternoon.understandably I am shattered. this as been going on for 18 months & use to last for a couple of days but the latest episode as lasted 5 GP seems lost. if sleep arnoea could be the cause it will certainly help me!

  • thanks to every one who replied to this.

    since i was a child i have had a sleep problem. my mind screams at me to wake up but my body remains asleep; it's understandably terrifying. it only happens occasionally, but when i do wake I am gasping for air. oddly, my GP and cardio are unaware of a link between AF and sleep apnoea, which i find unacceptable, surely if they Googled the evidence, it's worth considering.

You may also like...