February 23, 2018

Do You Have Sleep Apnea and Atrial Fibrillation? Why Does It Matter?

Many of you know that I’m concerned about the relationship between sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation and also about how atrial fibrillation can overwork the heart and lead to heart failure.

Thus, a newly launched study about sleep apnea and heart failure may hopefully provide information useful for those with atrial fibrillation.

What are the implications today for those with afib and should you be tested for sleep apnea?

Read more at Why Afib Patients Must Know Whether They Have Sleep Apnea

Then please come back here to post your comments, thoughts, and experiences.


  1. Ulysses Grant says:

    I am 43, I was recently diagnosed with Astral Fibrillation. It was discovered accidentally when I had my random physical exam. I had to go through few diagnosis and concluded that I have a persistent Afib. The funny thing is I don’t feel any symptoms (except being sleepy but I always have season allergies) and my resting heart rate goes between 49-54 bps. It puzzled my cardiologist so he sent me to do a sleep study which concluded that I have Moderate Central Sleep Apnea. I started using CPAP a month ago but my average AHI is around 10 which is still pretty high for someone who is using CPAP and the pressure is set to 8.
    I found out that my sleeping position could affects my AHI levels. These past few days, I have been sleeping on lateral position the AHI down to 3.x. Last night, it went down to 0.6. I started placing soft pillow between my legs which would help me not to move away from my position. It has been working so far.
    In few weeks, I am getting my cardioversion which hopefully will put my heart back to normal rhythm.
    Overall, I think that random checkup saved my life because if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t know that I have afib and sleep apnea.
    So far, being on CPAP has been very great. Each morning, I felt great and energize. I think it is just a matter of getting used to it. I was worried when the sleep study staff told me that CPAP may not be the one for me and I may be put on oxygen treatment. This website has helped me reach out to others by reading their stories and experiences. I don’t mind being on CPAP for the rest of my life and this could be the solution from why I had always been a sleepy head since I was a little boy.

    • Brenna Lara says:

      Hi Ulysses,

      You may be interested in joining our patient discussion forum (http://forum.stopafib.org/index.php) to connect with other patients who collectively have a great amount of knowledge and experience. You may want to post your story and experience there, and you may also learn a lot from others who have already shared their experience.

      You’ll need to join to see and participate in the discussion. To do so, go to forum.stopafib.org, and click on the big red button that says, “Sign Up”. Once you sign up by registering your email address, your preferred username, and a password, you’ll receive an email to confirm your interest in joining the forum. Click on the confirmation link in that email, and you are ready to go. You’ll be able to log into the forum, read the discussions, and participate. I hope that you are able to find others to connect with there that can give you advice, suggestions, and hope.

      You can view a how-to video here: http://getinrhythm.com/how-to-register-on-forum

      There are many resources on living with afib that you might find helpful. For more information on afib and afib management, we have many resources available to you.

      • News Stories on afib http://www.stopafib.org/news.cfm
      • Patient Resources at MyAfibExperience.org
      • Afib Blog
      • Video Presentations from the 2015 Atrial Fibrillation Patient Event

      Best of luck to you! We wish you sinus rhythm.

  2. Hi Melanie, I had ( have my Dad is still alive) two parents that have afib, but this didnt happen until they were in their 70s. They were both overweight and never ate right or exercise. I am 54 yrs old I eat very healthy and am pretty active. I was awaken twice now from a sound sleep in the middle of the night with Afib. I went to the ER after my heart was beating fast for two hrs snd I was very light headed even while laying down. Its very scary especially if you live alone. That was Dec 21 st Cardioligist diagnosed me and I spent 2 days in the hospital. He sent me home with 180 mg of Cardizem and told me take one baby aspirin a day. I have no risk factors according too the Chads guidlines. So it turned out med dosage was to strong walked around in a fog , Couldnt perform well at work. My primary dr reduced the dosage too 120 mg which is 100 percent better. fast forward three months and I’m sound asleep 2 o’clock in the morning I’m woken up by a rapid heartbeat again this time I got it to slow down by drinking water eating a banana and then it was a little erratic so I had my friend bring me to the ER.I was in the hospital for 12 hours my heart rate was 128 when I got there the cardiologists came in and he checked me. I told him about the electrophysiologist and the ablation. And I had a consultation with this Dr. He explained everything about it but for a month he wanted too put me on Xeralto, Flacide and keep me taking Cardizem. When I told him I wanted Warrfrin instead he told me his office doesnt monitor cumaden. This is a sign of a dr whos in it for the kickbacks from the pharmaceutical companues, anyway my point is this has happened both times while in a deep sleep.
    Thank you for this site it has been very helpful.


    • Brenna Lara says:

      Hi Lynn,

      Thank you for sharing your afib story and your concerns. WE are so glad the website has been helpful to you. You may be interested in joining our patient discussion forum (http://forum.stopafib.org/index.php) to connect with other patients who collectively have a great amount of knowledge and experience. You may want to post your story and questions there, and you may also learn a lot from others who have already shared their experience. I hope that you are able to find others to connect with there that can give you advice, suggestions, and hope. There are many resources on living with afib that you might find helpful. Best of luck to you! We wish you sinus rhythm.

    • Hi Lynn – your story sounds like mine. You can message me your number and I will fill you in on what I’ve done.


    • Brenna Lara says:

      Hi Charles,

      Thank you for sharing your questions and concerns regarding your possible afib and your sleep apnea. We are so sorry to hear about your wife and your problems with lack of sleep, panic attacks, etc. You may be interested in joining our patient discussion forum (http://forum.stopafib.org/index.php) to connect with other patients who collectively have a great amount of knowledge and experience. You may want to post your story there, and you may also learn a lot from others who have already shared their experience. I hope that you are able to find others to connect with there that can give you advice, suggestions, and hope. There are many resources on living with afib that you might find helpful. Best of luck to you! We wish you sinus rhythm.

  4. My wife has told me for years that I have sleep apnea and in July 15 was diagnosed AF. I am 60 but had been keeping pretty fit and could comfortably run 5k and get involved in fitness classes. 0n 3 occasions over a 4 week period I was unable to complete 5k and felt out of breath and fatigued. ECG confirmed AF bloods normal, heart scan showed heart function to be normal. Cardiologist considering cardio version if change in meds do not allow me to engage in previous physical activities. No one has asked the sleep apnea question. I have to email cardiologist with results when I attempt to step up fitness activities so I will mention this

    • Brenna Lara says:

      Hi Drew,

      Thank you for sharing your story and your concern with the sleep apnea and AF correlation. You may be interested in joining our patient discussion forum (http://forum.stopafib.org/index.php?) to connect with other patients who collectively have a great amount of knowledge and experience. You may want to post your story there, and you may also learn a lot from others who have already shared their experience.

  5. I am encouraged by all the postings about a possible or proven connection between Afib and sleep apnea. I am currently undergoing routine cardiology and respiratory tests on my heart, heart rate and sleep patterns and hope that this leads to a cardioversion reverse of my Afib plus being set up with a CPAP machine, no matter how long it takes to get used to this unpleasant night-time solution.
    I have been a road runner for more than 30 years and until very recently have run three miles or so every day part-way through my home-based daywork, though I’m largely semi-retired.
    When I mentioned to a family member that despite being very fit I was finding myself a little short of breath and my wife also chipped in about waking her up with sleep interruptions lasting up to 20 seconds a time I was advised to go for an ECG.This came back ‘abnormal’.
    I have now also had an echocardiogram, to check the structure of the heart, and will soon have home trials of ECG to check my heart-rate over a 24-hour period.
    Also a home sleep trial (which I insisted on after taking advice), in which I am asked to record my sleep patterns over a two-week period prior to being fitted with a monitor that I will use in another home trial.
    Because of running, my resting pulse rate is a low 54/58. But when my heart ‘flutters’ it can go up to 120!
    I have convinced myself that there may well be a connection between AF and sleep apnea, though I am not a medic. Some doctors I have spoken to so far don’t seem willing to move beyond saying that this is ‘possible’.
    But even if there is no connection, I still need both problems fixed!
    It makes sense to me that if I have several/many instances per night of stopping breathing, therefore starving my cardiovascular system of oxygen, this will interfere with the correct functioning of the heart.
    The danger, I am told, of AF is that because the blood is not being pumped out of the heart smoothly it can swirl around and possibly form clots, one of which could travel to the brain and cause a stroke.
    I am on a blood thinner for four weeks for this reason and also a beta-blocker to control the periodic ‘flutterings’ of the heart, due I am told to many diverse and conflicting signals from the heart’s cells, rather than just the normal impulses that come from the sinus node.
    I’m learning about all this every day and hope that people like me who believe that there is a connection will continue to seek medical advice and corrective treatment for both conditions, whether they are connected or not.
    My wife deserves a better night’s sleep – even in an adjoining room! And I want to get back on the road!

    The best to all,


    • I have been in permanent afib for about 5 years. Lifetime athlete, still riding a stationary bike for 40 minutes a day. Now 73. Proven central sleep apnea for 5 years, but I believe I had it for years without knowing it, and I, like you, believe the apnea caused the afib. I take metoprolol to control heartbeat, and warfarin, as well as levothyroxin for low thyroid, which also seems related to me. I use a vpap at night with a full face mask. Fortunately, I am used to protective face gear from my years of football, so I have been able to adjust pretty well. My biggest concern now is dealing with all the side effects of all the medications. Until this started, I didn’t even take aspirin.

      • Brenna Lara says:

        Hi ak260,

        Thank you for sharing your story and your concern with the sleep apnea and AF correlation and the potential side effects of all of your medications. You may be interested in joining our patient discussion forum (http://forum.stopafib.org/index.php?) to connect with other patients who collectively have a great amount of knowledge and experience. You may want to post your story there, and you may also learn a lot from others who have already shared their experience. Best of luck to you!

  6. Karen Ostby says:

    I’ve had afib for 8 yrs., treated successfully with heart meds, blood thinner, 1 cardioversion until 9/14 when I was in afib until early Dec. Sotolol was added, Metropolol eliminated. A sleep study ON 1/1/15 revealed central sleep apnea. A 3rd. Sleep study should set pressures on my CPAP machine, at last!

    • Hi there – I too was recently diagnosed with sleep apnea with one event of CSA. I was told the CSA was treated differently as you actually stop breathing with this. How have you been treated?

  7. Robert McGrath says:

    First AFIB bout was 9/2014. Steady 140 beats for 36 hours before I got help. Cardioversion and now on Xarelto and Flecainide. I now believe I was having mild AFIB at least two years before. I put them down as indigestion because they happened in afternoon after eating. “Vagas Nerve stimulation”. Second AFIB was after waking six months later, had headache and severe fuzzy mental. I knew something wasn’t right. I had bought an Alivecor device and it showed 120 beats and Atrial flutter. That lasted a few hours and went into AFIB. EP tried to chemical convert rhythm by doubling Flecainide, NOPE, another Cardioversion. Got Sleep testing and have 77 hypopneas an hour with oxygen desaturation down to 70%. I hope to get CPAP Machine in about a week.

    • Robert, thanks for sharing. I hope the CPAP will help you, and we know that treating sleep apnea is very important in managing atrial fibrillation. You may also be interested in joining our afib discussion forum to learn about how others are managing their afib, too.

      • I was in a fib off and on for two years and cardioverted twice. After having a sleep study done it was found that I have sleep apnea. Been using the c pap for three years and no more episodes. I hope this is the end. would highly recomend a sleep study for anyone in a fib.

        • Did you still have to take meds for your gain since crap fixed the afib?

          • Brenna Lara says:

            Hi Donna,

            You may be interested in joining our patient discussion forum (http://forum.stopafib.org/index.php) to connect with other patients who collectively have a great amount of knowledge and experience. You may want to post your story and questions there, and you may also learn a lot from others who have already shared their experience.

            You’ll need to join to see and participate in the discussion. To do so, go to forum.stopafib.org, and click on the big red button that says, “Sign Up”. Once you sign up by registering your email address, your preferred username, and a password, you’ll receive an email to confirm your interest in joining the forum. Click on the confirmation link in that email, and you are ready to go. You’ll be able to log into the forum, read the discussions, and participate.

            I hope that you are able to find others to connect with there that can give you advice, suggestions, and hope. There are many resources on living with afib that you might find helpful. Best of luck to you! We wish you sinus rhythm.

  8. I have occasional afib lasting about 4 hours every 2 weeks. I also snore and am overweight (225#, 5’11”). Havent had a sleep study yet but will get one. Mostly interested in the cause of afib in patients with sleep apnea. Doubt it is related to increased blood pressure. Rather, afib is known to be associated in people with enlarged atria. When you have sleep apnea tou obstruct at the throat and then very strongly expand rib cage and lower diaphragm which makes a strong negative pressure in the chest. This sucks blood into the atria, stretching them, and making you succeptabke to afib. Conversly, a skeep apnea machine provides continous pisitive pressure to the chest which pushes blood out of atria makjng them smaller and less susceptible to afib. I am an anesthesiologist by the way.

    • Russell, Thanks for your insights. You raise an interesting question about what is the cause of afib in patients with sleep apnea, but from what we have learned there is not a set of known causes of afib. There are risk factors, and sleep apnea and afib are certain closely related. You may be interested in posing this question on our patient discussion forum.


  9. I had a bout of A-Fib last July. I’m 58 with no previous heart problems. It scared the bejeebers out of me. My cardiologist did a cardio-version at the hospital. When I woke up the anesthesiologist said, “man, you have sleep apnea really bad”. The cardiologist told me to have a sleep study performed immediately, which I did. It confirmed the OSA suspicion. The first couple of nights using a CPAP I grumbled and cursed and didn’t sleep at all. I was ready to throw the stupid machine out the window. It took about a month using the nasal pillows & adjusting the settings…then BAM…the best night’s sleep I’ve had in recent memory. For the past 9 months, I HAVE FELT GREAT! Slept like a baby, lots more energy and NO A-FIB. I am a CPAP convert!
    In my case, I truly believe there is an OSA and A-FIB connection. (Don’t give up on the CPAP)

    • Marlin,
      Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you figured out a way to get your CPAP to work for you. And yes, we believe there is definitely a link between OSA and afib. If you’re interested, feel free to join us over at our Patient Discussion Forum. Here is where you can find instructions on getting started.

    • rogerbran18 says:

      I don’t have OSA, but I am a very shallow breather and probably more so when asleep. The sleep study did not show sleep apnea, but since I had symptoms of it, mainly fatigue during the day as if I had no or only little sleep the night before, I insisted on a CPAP machine even though I had to pay for it out of pocket.

      I also have afib, and I hoped the CPAP would help in that regard.

      It’s been a real problem getting used to the full mask but since I’m a mouth breather I can’t use the nasal pillow. Most nights I end up taking it off in order to fall asleep so I probably only have it on an hour or so.

      I’m going to make a renewed effort to try to get used to it because I really think it could make a difference not only in dealing with daytime fatigue but my paroxysmal afib as well.

      • Hi, in regard to the CPAP mask being unbearable to wear you can order a soft mask made of fabric, I think it’s called “Sleepweaver”. Ask your CPAP company or your physician. Good Luck.

    • Did you have to go on meds for afib, or just use the crap?

  10. Concerning OSA and weight. You don’t have to be heavy to have OSA, although losing weight helps. The reason is that you can have OSA as a result of the structure of your jaw (bottom jaw set back) and other physical features measured by something called the Mallampati Score (Google it). As you get older, things loosen up and it can trigger OSA, particularly if you have the physical features above. If you gain a slight amount of weight and have these features it can trigger OSA. If you take tranquilizers or drink alcohol before bed it will do the same thing.

    So, combinations of things can set you up for OSA and afib. Other medical issues up your chances. I notice many medical websites miss these interrelationships.

    • Yes, it’s my case: I’m 188 cm tall, 108 kilos, but the otorhinolaryngologist told me (after the endoscopy) that my larynx is the cause of my OSA. However, he told me that I must to loose at least 15 kilos to see an improvement. For now it’s very dufficult to me to dieting and I preffer my CPAP, who make me “turbo-man”. :)))))

  11. I have this terrible disease since 1992. I was 26 when I had my first episode of AFib. Then there was a break of 18 years and in 2010 I had 2-3 episodes per year (maximum 36 hours each), all medical converted to sinus rhythm. This year, unfortunately, AFib episodes have increased, which made ​​me think seriously to ablation. I had AFib episodes almost every night. The electrophysiologist/arythmologist advised me to make a study of the sleep and after this, they discovered that I have severe OSA. I started CPAP therapy for about 3 weeks, I had two short crises at the beginning of therapy, but now, for more than a week, I feel better, but as another friend written above , I am cautiously optimistic.

    Excuse my poor english, I’m not english speaker, I’m romanian.

    • Dan, it’s great that you’re beginning to treat your sleep apnea. You may also be interested in joining our discussion forum to learn more about others and how they are managing their afib. Here is a quick link to the forum, and here is where you can find instructions on registering and getting started. I hope we will see you over there.

      p.s. Your English is great.

      • Thank you, Melissa! I already registered under the nickname ursamajor.

      • Dear Dan, If you continue to have these episodes and you htink you want ablation, think again. I have one of the most respected and educated eletrophysiologists in the nusiness and I have had 3 ablations and I swear I get worse each time instead of better. They said the only thing they could do is give me a pacemaker and see if that would correct my afib. I told them go to you know where and I also have osa and I use my cpap faithfully. Really think the ablation thing over really well before you choose that route. As long as people can get a clue what you are talking about you’re lingo is good.

        • Jay Nonnenmocher says:

          A pacemaker will NOT fix your a fib but Might mitigate some of the symptoms. My pacemaker did nothing for me. Good call n not getting one!

  12. Mea Culpa: 2014 should of course read 2013. My apologies….Senior moment

  13. Hi,
    I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea five years ago and started cpap immediately. I was then diagnosed with AFib in 2014 and after no success with medications, I went for cardioversion the middle of the year. That did not work either but I learned that sleep apnea and anaesthesia do not good bedmates make. Apparently I stopped breathing under the anaesthetic, prompting a rapid search for equipment to restart me. My sleep apnea and cpap use were on my admission info but were apparently missed. CAUTION. If you are on cpap and are having a procedure, make sure that the surgeon is fully aware of your sleep apnea.
    As for the AFib,it is continuous although it causes me no discomfort. Apparently you can adapt to it. I realize that the two conditions together increase the risk of heart failure or stroke but I am in my seventies. I just hope that my experience of the breathing crisis helps someone else and maybe even saves a life or two

  14. I have had Afib for the last 5 years, with very symptomatic episodes about 4 times a year. My cardiologists physician’s assistant suggested I might have sleep apnea and that I should be tested. I have severe sleep apnea and since starting my CPap 6 months ago, I have NOT had an episode of Afib!

    Getting used to the mask took almost 2 months, but I’m so glad I stuck with it. I feel so much better and have more energy. I encourage any who are suffering from sleep apnea to stick with the therapy. You’ll be glad you did!

    • Jeanne, your afib sounds a little like mine. I usually get two 24 hr episodes of afib a month, which make me very tired and sick. I didn’t have sleep apnea symptoms at first but recently was tested again and prescribed a CPAP machine, which I hated and wanted to toss out the window. But I persisted and started using it regularly. I have had some very good nights sleep and feel like living in the morning. Plus I went a month without an afib episode. It resolved by itself in about 18 hours. I want to encourage others to keep trying to sleep using the CPAP. You will get used to it and it may help your afib and take the strain off your heart.

  15. Debbie Karlsen says:

    I have had Afib since the 1970s and had a sleep study test about 20 years ago and was never told I had sleep apnea. I went to a new neurologist and he ordered another sleep test because I also have epilepsy. I was told I do have sleep apnea and that it does have an affect with Afib. He wants me to try a CPAP for my apnea but told me that since I have had Afib for so long, it won’t cure it. I don’t which came first, Afib or sleep apnea. Oh well, I now have to schedule an appointment to try a CPAP. I am not happy because I am clostrophobic. This was an eye opener for me today.

    • Hi Debbie,
      There are many other afib patients with sleep apnea. Also, Mellanie was claustrophobic, but she adapted very quickly to the CPAP and now doesn’t want to sleep without it. You may be interested in discussing this over on our patient discussion forum. To get to the StopAfib.org Discussion Forum, go to: http://forum.stopafib.org. To post or ask questions, you’ll need to register. Instructions for registering and getting started are here: http://forum.stopafib.org/index.php?showforum=25.


    • I had 4-5 afib attacks a year until I got my c-pap and have not had an attack in 8 years.

      • Jeff, it’s great to hear that you’re doing better since using your c-pap machine. Melissa

      • So there’s hope for me! Never had a heart issue until my first afib episode in January and again in May. Found out I had sleep apnea and I am trying to get use to my CPAP machine. Hopefully I won’t have anymore afib episodes. I don’t want to have ablation and I would like to get off the Multaq which makes me feel horrible!

    • I’ve had sleep apnea now for approximatelly 20 years, and in the last two years I developed A-Fib. I had the sleep study done due to my A-Fib.
      I was prescribed a CPAP machine and I thought I wasn’t going to be able to sleep with this mask on my face. Let me tell you, I love my machine, I can’t sleep without it. It is the best thing that happened to me, I used to fall assleep on my job and get reprimended for it, I fell asleep everywhere, sitting in church, at the movies, except at a traffic light, everywhere else. I am not exagerating. I have a lot of energy, I wake up refreshed. You never know it can change your life.

    • About claustrophobia, that was a hurdle to overcome at first with the CPAP mask. I felt I couldn’t breathe with it on. After several tries, I realized that I actually CAN breathe with it on, whether or not the machine is on. There are several holes on the mask for breathing and for air to escape. Maybe holding the mask in place briefly by hand and breathing through it, then increasing the time will help those who are claustrophobic. It is a very real fear, but can be overcome. And using a CPAP is important if you have sleep apnea.

  16. JERRY CURRAN says:


  17. I was first diagnosed with Afib in 2009, while in the hospital overnight. It self-corrected just as the doctor was explaining to me that he could and would shock me back into rhythm. He sent me to have a sleep study, but it was “inconclusive” so they wanted me to do it again. That bill went to collections, and now I have a judgment against me because of it. I never did the second test.

    I have left it untreated ever since, because I did not have insurance. I got insurance in 2012, but I had a pre-existing condition.

    Now I have been told that I’m in A-fib again, first in February and again now the beginning of May. I went back to my cardiologist from 2009, and he wants to believe that I have sleep apnea. I can’t afford the sleep study, and I’m not sure the insurance will cover it. My heart rate is averaging 90 bpm at rest, and I’m tired all the time. I’m 45.

    I want to feel better, but I can’t afford the sleep test, and I’m not convinced I have sleep apnea.

    Your advice is welcome!

    • Hi Nancy,
      Thanks for sharing your story. Getting the proper treatment can be a struggle. You may be interested in sharing your story on our StopAfib.org discussion forum. To get to the StopAfib.org Discussion Forum, go to: http://forum.stopafib.org. To post or ask questions, you’ll need to register. Instructions for registering and getting started are here: http://forum.stopafib.org/index.php?showforum=25. Many folks here may be offer to share the insights they have gained in going through similar processes. Additionally, The American Sleep Apnea Association (http://www.sleepapnea.org/) may be a helpful resource for you in learning more about sleep apnea.


  18. My husband had a mild stroke in October, he also found out that he was in A-Fibb and his cardiologist thought that he had been in Afibb for the last year or more. He was cardioverted two seperate times but it did not take on him. We saw a specialist regarding the ablation procedure and was told that he needed to be tested for sleep apnea. Three sleep studies later he was diagnoised as having complex sleep apnea which is obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. He received his bi-pap machine and adjusted to it very fast with no difficulty and has used it every night after receiving it, he has had it for almost 2 weeks now. He is due to get the ablation procedure done in 3 days and we are hoping that this procedure gets him out of a-fibb. We have noticed that over the last few days that his blood pressure has been lower as well as his heart rate. I am wondering if this is due to him useing his sleep machine, I guess only time will tell.

    • Hi Paula,
      Yes, sleep apnea raises blood pressure, but using a CPAP machine brings it back down to normal. I hope your husband’s procedure goes well. Also, you may be interested in joining the StopAfib.org discussion forum for more on this topic and many others. To get to the StopAfib.org Discussion Forum, go to: http://forum.stopafib.org. To post or ask questions, you’ll need to register. Instructions for registering and getting started are here: http://forum.stopafib.org/index.php?showforum=25.

  19. I had all the symptoms of A fib, and I was feeling sleepy and down at the same time my A fib symptoms picked up. I returned to using my CPAP machine for the first time last night, and today for the first time in weeks my strong pulse, irregular heartbeat, and high bp were not present when I woke up. I also felt well rested. I had stopped using the CPAP because I lost weight, but after putting 15 pounds back on apparently I need it again. Feels like a strong correlation to me, I guess the constant stress of having your airway cut off when unconscious and waking up startled causes it.

  20. Arend Stolte says:

    I have both sleep apnea and Atrial Fibrilation. I was dianosed with sleep apnea about eight years ago and have used a CPAP machine ever since. My Atrial Fibrilation was diagnosed six years ago. Originally it was triggered by Norvasc, the high blood pressure medication. Recently I’ve noticed that more things triggers it; one or more drinks, accidently inhalling solvents such as spray paints, Adalat, another calcium channel blocker, and hydrochlorotiazide, a water pill. My doctors are sceptical that these can bring on episodes but for me it’s simply a case of cause and effect. To prove it to my cardiologist I took a dose of Adalat while on a Holter Monitor and right on cue I had an eppisode five hour later. My episodes used to last only a few hours but now last several days. I’m wondering if anyone else has seen a connection between prescription drugs such as these and A-Fib. It seems to go against conventional wisdom among doctors.

    • Bill Northcott says:

      This is my experience for what it is worth. I am 64 years old, and in late 2011 I was in hospital 5 times in 2 months with A-fib. I got given Amioderone in the short term then that was exchanged for Flecainide and a calcium channel blocker. I heap of tests showed nothing wrong with my heart, and no other obvious cause. Since I am not overweight and very fit for my age I got progressively more pissed off with the doctors. In the end, it was a respiratory specialist I was seeing because of very long standing asthma, who listened to my symptoms and sent me to the sleep doctors. I was on the borderline of moderate to severe sleep apnea. My O2 sat was dropping as low as 86%. As I have read, it is low oxygen that causes the heart damage which leads to A-fib.
      Looking back, I had a laundry list of sleep apnea symptoms many of which I had complained of to doctors: morning headaches verging on mild migraines, inability to concentrate, loss of memory, and lapses of concentration. Five years ago I had a bad skiing accident. I stopped on a steep mogul slope for my companion to catch up and fell straight down the slope mashing my shoulder. I am now sure that I had a micro sleep. I was also hitting walls and bollards in car parks while and I am now sure this had had the same cause.
      I got a CPAP machine in December 2011. It took me 2 months, five different masks and much playing with settings to get happy with it. So if you are finding it difficult keep trying. The result has been worth it. The headaches are gone, I don’t forget things any more. I can concentrate an don’t have micro sleeps. Most importantly, I do not have A-fib any more. Since using CPAP, I had one very mild episode back at the beginning of July 2012 and it went away in a couple of hours.
      I was very disappointed by the cardiologist. When I told him I had sleep apnea he said, “Yes, that would do it.” Why did he not suggest it, particularly as he knew about the morning headaches and other symptoms.
      My takeaway is that most doctors think that only obese people have sleep apnea. This is rubbish. I you have A-fib demand a sleep test particularly if the A-fib episodes start in the early morning.
      I am unhappy taking the drugs, particularly the calcium channel blocker, and I am looking for a new cardiologist.

  21. Just found out I have mild to moderate sleep apnea. Could this be the cause of my Lone Atrial Fibrilation? Also, I’m not sure if this is realted, but I have had no experience with asthma or bronchitits however, everytime I get a chest x-ray done it reads peribronchial soft-tissue thickening. Could all of this be related? I’m a 35 yr old male, i exercise avidly but I can’t figure out what started my Lone Afib. Anybody have any perspective on this? I’d be truly greatful for your point of view. Thanks.

  22. pstringer says:

    I have had years of very poor sleep and over the past three years been diagnosed with Atrial fibrilation which has been hard to control. While I was waiting for a Pulmonary Vein Isolation procedure my cardiologist asked if I “had any other health problems”. For some reason I mentioned my terrible sleep problem first and thought he was stalling for time when he suggested that I have checks for sleep apenoa. Seems I have severe sleep apenoa with 49 sleep disturbances in any one hour…..I am now waiting to get a CPAP machine and CAN’T WAIT..this may do away with the need for a PVI. At the very least if it works I should feel much better. I was at the end of my tether with the AF and totally exhaused all the time. Wish me luck and go get your sleep checked if you have AF.

    • mmoss_stopafib says:

       @pstringer I’m glad to hear you’ve found that a CPAP could help you feel better! I hope this helps you feel great and makes you healthier. Keep us updated!

  23. 6/11/12
    I began having strange episodes of heart flutter, shortness of breath in Feb. of 2012. Had a battery of test of my heart that showed no worrisome areas, just a slight enlargement  of one ventricle. On a follow up visit, a random EKG showed the problem, A-Fib. How it was missed is beyond me, considering the extensive testing done. First line of attack, medication. Toporol XL and a blood pressure medicine. Was already on Warrafin because of a pulmonary embolism I had after a third total hip replacement operation. Things were in check until two nights after the insurance provider switched me to generic Toprol XL, i had heart failure and ended up in emergency room and had electric shock of the heart to return to normal rhythm. (this corrected the problem for 3 days, then back into AFib). Doctors say “just coincidence” with generic.
      Doctor sent me for sleep study, results showed 28 apnea episodes and hour, and I have just received CPAP machine last week. Doctor also said to find a Dr. to do an ablation. I told her I will use CPAP for a few months, then find ablation Dr. if stlll necessary. Hope better sleep has a positive affect on the AFIB.
    Will keep y’all  posted…
    CAM near Charlottesville VA.

    • Carol Masser says:

      Reading through the forum and saw the post and your address. I too have sleep apnea and Afib. Do go to the cardiovascular clinic at UVA – fantastic, supportive staff!

  24. xanadu13 says:

    I accidently stumbled on this blog today when looking for the just released connection of sleep apnea and cancer. As a dual AF and sleep apnea sufferer for over 10 years, and 24/7 with AF since my use of Cordarone was stopped over 4 years ago (feared and possibly resultant toxicity) I will be reading all comments and following as well as answering any question posed. Right now I want to find the cancer connection study to have some cause for nightmares tonight.. 

  25. jlwyatt11 says:

    I was diagnose with sleep apnea in 2008. I have been using my CPAP faithfully since. I have had 4 episodes of afib. in last 11 years, at intervals of 3 to  4 years. The 1st two times in 2000 and 2004 I went back into sinus fib or regular rhythem on my own. The last two times I decided to go to the hospital and both times they said I have afib. I asked why if it episodic? They said basically better safe than sorry to take Calcium blockers. I’ve been worried  about taking this medicine since. Has anyone else had this experience. IS there a support group somewhere?

  26. This is a “chicken and egg” thing for me. After I was diagnosed with A-Fib, a doctor suggested having a sleep study done but my arrhythmia was so frequent and long-lasting that they recommended an ablation ASAP. I had a cryo-ablation done at Baylor’s heart hospital in Dallas last week.

    One of the first things I’ve noticed is how much better I’m sleeping and that I’m waking up easier and feeling rested. I have problems with fatigue because of auto-immune diseases. I tire easily and feel like my bones are made of lead at random times. But when the A-Fib started, I mostly got the worst of it at night or early in the morning. I awoke feeling as though I’d been fighting battles!

    So, did sleep apnea cause my A-Fib or did the A-Fib mess up my ability to sleep well and provoke apnea? I don’t know. My doctor at Baylor said I had an electrical problem in my heart and was likely born with it. We don’t know what set it off.

    For those considering ablation, I have to say it’s not nearly as bad as the internet articles make it sound. First off, I was given general anaesthesia and wasn’t awake. Secondly, if you can, have the cryo-ablation done instead of the older, electrode version. Apparently, cryo has a much higher success rate and fewer possible complications. It’s only been FDA-approved in the US for about a year, I believe, so it may be harder to find a hospital that offers it. That’s why I went to Baylor.

    • The comments from julie touch on a question I have been wondering about recently. I had been coping with atrial fibrilation for about 20 years ( on and off). About 7 yrs ago it became continuous. Tried medication and electric conversion with no permanent results. Took sleep test and was diagnosed with sleep apnea and went on CPAP therapy. I still have not adapted to the mask, and lose more sleep because of that problem than I did from sleep apnea. I had ablation done almost 4 months ago.
      I had a couple of fibrilation episodes within 2-3 weeks after the procedure,but have been ok for almost 3 months now.
      In the meantime,for unrelated reasons , I have not used my cpap machine. I have not noticed any apparent apnea issues during this time.
      I`m wondering if the fibrillation problem was causing the sleep apnea,rather than the opposite.

      • Hi Dick,
        You may be interested in getting involved in our discussion forum when it is back up and running. It’s currently down for maintenence. There are others on the forum with sleep apnea with whom you can get ideas for getting the mask to work. That’s important for helping avoid having afib coming back after catheter ablation. Afib episodes are normal during the 2-3 months after catheter ablation–they are caused by the heart being inflamed, but that goes away as it heals. Also, realize that a person may not feel apnea, but it’s still there. It’s highly unlikely that afib caused the sleep apnea.


  27. Does sleep apnea have to be a certain severity to cause afib?
    I have had 4 sleep studies- one doc say I have mild OSA and can be th cause of the arrhythmia another says it isn’t bad enough to cause my afib and other arrhythmia. I have been on and off CPAP twice now, no doctor can agree whether I have obstructive sleep apnea, my last study showed an increase in central apneas but not that much of an increase and they say that is because I was on CPAP. I am already prone to arrhythmias due to congenital heart defect ( ASD) and have bi-vent paemaker. all of my doctors do agree that sleep apnea has to be very bad to cause afib. but they don’t agree on whether CPAP would help or hurt me. CPAP seems to help me some days but not others so sleep doc wants me on it but pulmonologist says no. I am confused.

  28. I am actually the reverse of many of our posters here on the forum. I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea about a year ago and was prescribed a CPAP machine. I tried to use it, but eventually just gave up on it. Then I had my first, and hopefully only A-fib episode this past December. As soon as they found out that I wasn’t using my CPAP, they agreed that that may have very well been the cause of me going into A-fib. The A-fib episode scared me so badly (my heart was as high as 234 at one point), that I began using my CPAP there in the hospital and haven’t stopped since. I have already begun to see the daytime fatigue fading away and some of my mental capacities such as memory come back, as well as having just the basic energy level to do chores, etc. In the past I had been napping quite often. I continue to have what appears to be A-flutter, but no A-fib again yet, although it has only been about 30 days. My cardiologist hopes that if I resolve the apnea, through weight loss, that hopefully the A-fib won’t come back and I will be in a better state of health overall. I never knew how dangerous sleep apnea was until I ingored it….

  29. I have had a-fib for years. Usually 4-6 attacks a year lasting several days. I am on Flecanide which seems to help with controlling it. In late July I had an episode that went on for ten days. I had a cardioversion to get me out of it. At the end of the cardioversion, the doctor said I should have a sleep study done. I did, and was found to have sever sleep apnea. I have not had an episode now for 11 weeks since I have been using the CPAP. I am cautiosly optimistic.

  30. I am a 34 yr old male. Was diagnosed with paroxysmal A-Fib 2 yrs ago after I went to the ER with tachycardia. I did not need to be cardioverted, but was given about 4 hrs of medication via drip to get me back to “normal”. Previous to this incident I was seeing a cardiologists and having the routine tests done. All came back as a “normal and healthy” 32 yr old. I knew I was having weird sensations that were not right, but they never seemed to happen when I was actually being watched or tested, go figure. They were all telling me it was just anxiety. I have medication that I can take if I have any symptoms. I seem to go without any hiccups its seem for weeks, if not months, then all of a sudden, starting with last week, I am waking up in the middle of the night, feeling like I was holding my breath. 2 days ago this was accompanied with 2 hrs of A-fib or another arryhthmia. Really got me worried, being 34 and in decent shape and all. I find this correlation between these 2 conditions interesting and just want some answers. I will be seeing my doctor (new) about this and see what else can be tested.

  31. juyeonsong says:

    Is there anyone who has paralyzed diaphram after byPass surgery with AFib and OSA?

    • Juyeonsong,

      “Is there anyone who has paralyzed diaphram after byPass surgery with AFib and OSA?”

      Can you elaborate to help us better understand your question?


  32. Aubrey Lindsey says:

    I just had an left Atrial Ablation for persistant AFIB. I woke up from the proceedure and immediately felt like a million dollars. I had been in continuous AFIB for many months before the ablation, and couldn’t believe how relieved I was to be back in Rythym. The proceedure was not that bad and I did not even require pain meds at all afterwards. My proceedure was done at Memorial Herman Medical Center in Houstn, TX at their Cardio Vascular Institute. I highly recommend them for the great service I received. Now I am going to do the CPAP portion of my APNEA test since I was also diagnosed with mild Sleep APNEA prior to the Ablation.
    Hope this helps anyone considering an Ablation for AFIB. I’d do it again in a “Heartbeat”.

    • Aubrey,

      Congratulations on your success. Please stay on the CPAP in order to help keep that afib beast at bay.


    • Barbara Costley says:

      Aubrey, I also am in atgrial fibrillation. We are not sure how long somewhere between July, 2012 and January, 2013. I have had a cardio version and also was on Multaq, neither were successful. I was diagnosed with severe OSA in March, 2013 and have been on the CPAP machine for 2 weeks. My cardiologist wants to wait for 3 months before trying anything else to try to convert me. I also am in Houston. Please let me know who did your ablation as I am considering going to a electrophysiologist.

      • Barbara, you may be interested in joining our StopAfib.org Discussion Forum: http://forum.stopafib.org. To post or ask questions, you’ll need to register. Instructions for registering and getting started are here: http://forum.stopafib.org/index.php?showforum=25. You can also search our doctor listings for afib specialists in your area at stopafib.org/find.cfm. Good luck! Melissa

        • I have mitral stenosis .I have had 6 episodes of a fib.i have been cardioverted 5 times. All my episodes start during sleep. Could the stenosis be a red herring?

          • Hi Patty, It could be that you have sleep apnea, which is causing afib, which is contributing to the mitral issues. You may be interested in speaking to your doctor about that as a possibility.


  33. Mellanie,

    Thanks for the advice about AV Node ablation. I see the EP soon and will keep it in mind. Also, have u ever heard of a mild case of sleep apnea causing A=Fib.
    I had a sleep study and they said I didn’t have enough to cause my A-Fib. I’d like to have another study done because some nights I snore much much more than others and maybe I didn’t snore as much during the little sleep I got during the study.

    Thank you,

  34. I have read all comments on your blog and notice that nobody said that their Drs
    suggested Pacemaker. I have had PVC’ and irregular heartbeat for years. Recently, my cardio doc put me on a halter monitor and found A-Fib with 2 to 3 second pauses during sleep. I had a sleep apnea study but apnea wasnt enough to cause the pauses. He suggests a Pacemaker because I have the pauses andTachacardia and bradycardia. Pacemaker will adjust slow rate but I will need meds for the fast beat. I’m also on Pradaxa to prevent blood clots and stroke. Has anyone else been suggested to get a pacemaker for these pauses, fast beats and slow beats. I’m going to see an electrophysiologist to confirm that a pacemaker is necessary.

    • Marian,

      Generally pacemakers aren’t used for treating afib itself, other than keeping the fast afib from transmitting to the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart) and causing life-threatening issues. Pacemakers are generally for other types of beats that are regular, usually the slow beats (bradycardia). The electrophysiologist should be able to judge whether or not you need a pacemaker, but you may wish to do your homework first so that you don’t end up with an AV node ablation. See our story here for more details:

      AV Node Ablation: Why You Shouldn’t Have It


  35. Wow, I have been having paroxysmal A-Fib since 1997. I have never been cardioverted and always return to a normal rythum on my own typically within 6 to 10 hours. 95% of all of my occurrances start between 1:00 AM and 3:00 AM. I wake right away and don’t fall back to sleep during an attach. I met a fellow who had both A-Fib and Sleep Apnea and said I should get checked. Since I started having A-Fib (about 2 to 4 attacks a year) I always asked my Cardiolgist about what may be going on during the night to trigger A-Fib. So last night I had a sleep study done and bang, i have severe sleep apnea and went into A-Fib that started at 1:00 AM and ended at 3:00 AM. Interesting. So I am going to treat my sleep apnea and I bet it fixes me right up. so I hope. Thus, take it into your own hands and make sure you ask the question. It may help you like to looks like it will help me. Oh, I was 44 when this all started.


  36. Keith Smith says:

    I have been battling AFIB since my MI in 92 and my bypass in 95. I recently went back and had a sleep study. They prescibed a BiPAP and honestly while it is a real challenge getting to sleep with the mask on it does reduce the episodes of AFIB and it is nice to dream at night again. I usually wake up after a few hous of th emask on but to sleep without it on a nite means a certain episode of AFIB after a few nites.

  37. I have been on BiPap for 5 years and recently had A Fib. I was told that the key is not to undergo cardioversion until you have been scoped for blood clots in the area of the lungs or been properly treated with anticoagulents such as Pradaxa. I was insructed that if you are cardioverted, without addressing the danger of a blood clot becoming an emboli, you could be returning with a stroke. I have been on Toprol or Rythmol to control my arrythmias but it is CRUCIALto treat the dangerous side effect of blood clots. BiPap is wonderful and you will be amazed at the rise in energy and memory you will see returning. If the CPap is too uncomfortable make certain to tell your physician so that they can cover you through insurance for BiPap which allows you to breath out comfortably without a constant force of air. I hope this might be helpful in questions for your physician. Check with your doctor though!