Featured in JAHA, the research, encompassing more than 42,000 patients, reveals an association between sleep-related hypoxia (low oxygen levels during sleep) and an increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation over time.
The study found this risk persisted even after accounting for lung function, suggesting sleep-related hypoxia independently increases atrial fibrillation risk separate from any underlying lung disease.
Navigating Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate, which can lead to poor blood flow and complications like stroke. An estimated 2.7-6.1 million people in the U.S. are living with AFib.
The study showed that 5% of patients were diagnosed with AFib within 5 years of their sleep study despite the cohort being fairly young (mean of 51 years old). It also found that for every 10 percentage point decrease in mean oxygen saturation, risk of AFib increased by 30%.
The researchers plan future studies to better understand the mechanisms linking sleep disordered breathing, which includes sleep apnea and sleep-related hypoxia, to AFib development. They also aim to examine whether current treatments for sleep apnea, such as CPAP, can help lower AFib risk. Their findings can inform future clinical trials of sleep disordered breathing treatments, such as supplemental oxygen at night.