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AF Association
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Does nighttime breathing cause AF

I hope you knowledgeable people can help me out here, as the research is likely to be lengthy.

Cut a long story short, I have worked on lifestyle changes to control AF for nearly 4 years (and in the meantime am on flecainide); my last hurdle (that I know about) is to sort out my sleep.

Please forgive this post for going on a bit but I hope aspects of it help others at the same time as asking for assistance.

I wake up once or twice every night and used to think that was the AF or a prostate/bladder issue (I'm 64), now I think it is neither but it is my poor breathing when asleep, which may well have been a primary tipping factor causing AF and now stopping me getting off the Flecainide.

I believe I am not getting enough oxygen at night causing the brain to wake me up with a 'mild emergency' explaining the need for a pee. This reasoning would also be behind a persistent level of anxiety despite successful action taken to all but eliminate sources of anxiety in my waking life.

I saw my GP this week and he said I'll try and get you retested for sleep apnea and possibly an insomnia clinic (neither of us could recall what that was but I declined it 3 years ago!). Incidentally, he knew nothing about the importance of breathing through your nose at all times, whichI found surprising given the amount on the internet.

Any comments, suggestions, sleep app recommendations very very welcome!

With best wishes for a healthy New Year.

7 Replies

sleep apnoea is a well known cause of AF and many EPs won't ablate patients until that is sorted out

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Sleep apnoea is one of the most common triggers of AF, and surprisingly is one of the most ignored. A sleep study should be mandatory for all cases of AF. The problem is caused by certain anatomical configuracion of the airway in the head that obstructs intermitently the passage of air during sleep, depriving the brain from receiving enough oxygen. This causes the brain to wake up in order to resume conscious breathing to avoid asphyxiation. This interruptions occur multiple times during the night affecting the quality of your sleep and triggering AF episodes. The benefits of a C-Pap machine are immeasurable. Many AF sufferers report significant improvements. Sleep apnoea also raises your blood pressure to dangerous levels during the night. Some people have had strokes while sleeping.


Thank you Tachp, that is very similar to what I have read in my initial research. Now just to convince my medics it is worth pursuing if nothing else to rule it out.


Hi, you asked about an app for your sleep. The FitBit I received for Christmas monitors sleep patterns, and might be informative. However, for such a serious requirement I don't think I would rely on this.

To illustrate the information available: Last night I was Awake 11% 1h0m, in REM 9% 49m, Light Sleep 64% 5h46m, Deep 14% 1h18m. This is graphed out for you in the app on your smart phone, as the periods of different sleep are spread about at random.

It could be useful, but might only reveal that you wake up a lot, which you already know.


I've been tested back in the day and found to have partially obstructive sleep apnea although I've never had a weight problem. At times I do hold my breath whilst sleeping and, my respiration rate whilst in hospital can be less than 12 per minute. That may be related to my heart rate dropping to the 20s and short pauses. Whilst those things don't make for deep sleep, they haven't caused AF.

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I'm sorry, John-Boy, but I don't understand your post. As I understand it, if you had been able to deal with these sleep problems and sleep 'normally' then your AF might well not have developed to it's present severity. Even now, dealing with the problem might improve your symptoms considerably, and you have no way of knowing if you don't try doing so.

Or are you saying that you don't have AF, so there is obviously no connection for you? If so, I wonder why you are an active member of this forum?


The originatting post queried whether sleep apnea caused AF. I have been diagnosed as having partially obstructive sleep apnea, but in answer to the question, it is not related to my AF and specialists in the field stated that I do not need treatment for it.

To answer your question:

* yes I have AF at times when exercising aerobically;

* my heart rhythm is rarely NSR;

* I've had a stroke possibly caused by AF but cause unknown;

* I'm a bleed risk but now take an anticoagulant although previously advised not to by an EP;

* I've had pulmonary toxicity from dronedarone and amiodarone.

Is that sufficient to permit me to post in this forum?


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