Sleep Arrhythmia

Sleep Apnea and Heart Arrythmia

Few people realize that sleep apnea can cause very serious heart problems, like arrhythmia.

Science has just began to understand why so many patients with severe sleep apnea have many types of heart diseases,  including heart block, non-sustained ventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation.

The scary fact is that heart-arrhythmia - also known as cardiac dysrhythmia - and stroke are the most common causes of sudden death that occur during sleep in patients with OSA.

This is the main reason why significant number of heart failures in sleep apnea patients have their onset at nighttime.

This page will try to show you why sleep apnea is dangerous for your heart, and why is so important to get the treatment as soon as possible.

What is Arrhythmia?

This heart disorder shows that you have a problem with the rate or rhythm of your heartbeat. If we're referring to patients with sleep apnea, this rhythm deteriorates when respiration is disturbed in sleep, by apnea episodes.

An apnea episode appears when you stop breathing in sleep for 10 seconds or more. If you have more apnea episodes in one night, like one hundred episodes, you will start to have problems with oxygen levels in your blood.

In other words:

  • low blood oxygen levels can lead to heart rhythm problems as well as problems with increasing pressure on the right side of the heart.
  • if your oxygen saturation drops significantly during the night (hypoxemia), the risk of abnormal heart rhythm is very high.
  • Believe it or not, but the most effective treatment for abnormal heart rhythm in patients with sleep apnea is CPAP.

What is Arrhythmia?

Sleep state and your Heart

Sleep states have a significant effect on your heart, besides a good oxygenation of your body. I'm talking about the consequence of the changing brain activity during normal cycling between NREM and REM sleep.

Patients with sleep apnea have abnormalities in REM sleep, among many other things. During REM sleep, there are sizable disturbances in sympathetic nerve activity, which cause significant pauses in heart rhythm.

If this situation is not a problem for healthy persons, those with heart disease and sleep apnea may be at particular risk during REM sleep, as the stress on the system may trigger cardiac dysrhythmia and myocardial infarction.

Tips to improve your heart if you have OSA

The next general measures may reduce the severity of abnormal heart rhythm and the severity of obstructive apnea, so it's a starting point to a healthy life. However, it will take time for your heart to recover. In serious cases your heart may never be the same.

So, these are the basic rules to follow if you have heart problems and OSA:

  • use CPAP therapy, or another alternative therapy, to avoid apnea episodes during sleep,
  • reduce your weight,
  • abstain from alcohol and sedatives that can predispose to pharyngeal collapse (thus more chances to have a blockage of the airway) during sleep.

Some more interesting pages for you to check out:

› Arrhythmia
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