Poor Sleep May Lead to Atrial Fibrillation

Poor sleep can lead to atrial fibrillation.
Poor sleep can lead to atrial fibrillation.

BAY SHORE, NY – People who do not sleep well, whether that be from a disorder such as sleep apnea or just generally do not get enough sleep, are putting themselves at a higher risk of getting an irregular heartbeat or atrial fibrillation.

People who woke up several times during the night had approximately a 26 percent higher chance of getting atrial fibrillation and insomniacs had about a 29 percent risk of getting atrial fibrillation, according to a recent study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2016.

Jason Chinitz, MD, chief of electrophysiology at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, notes that people with an irregular heartbeat are five times more likely to suffer a stroke at some point.

“Sleep apnea, which occurs when people have pauses in their breathing and periods of lack of oxygen during sleep, has recently been shown to be a major risk factor for the development of AFib, and treatment of sleep apnea can make existing therapies for Afib more effective (either with medications or catheter ablation),” said Dr. Chinitz.

Some ways to treat atrial fibrillation include medications, non-surgical procedures such as catheter ablation (destroying the malfunctioning heart tissue) or surgical procedures including pacemakers.

“This is the first time that the quality of a person’s sleep has been linked to a major heart rhythm abnormality, and has important implications on how we counsel and treat patients with this arrhythmia,” Dr. Chinitz added. “This novel research adds to our growing understanding that lifestyle modifications such as weight loss, exercise and now better sleep can help reduce the burden of atrial fibrillation and its dangerous and disabling complications.”

More than 2.5 million Americans have atrial fibrillation.

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