Sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder, shares a strong link with atrial fibrillation (AFib)
AFib is an irregular heartbeat, often described as feeling like a “fluttering” of the heart, which can lead to stroke
and other heart-related complications. Sleep apnea is a condition where repetitive airway obstruction causes a lack of oxygen
periodically throughout the night that can have serious health consequences, according to
Les Szekely, MD, of the
Doylestown Health Sleep Center
Bucks County Medical Associates
Dr. Szekely explains that
sleep apnea (defined as an involuntary interruption of
the normal breathing cycle) is a very common disorder, with eight percent of men and four percent of women estimated to have
this disorder in the United States. While sleep apnea is more common among the obese population, up to 20 percent of people
with sleep apnea are not obese.
The person with sleep apnea usually doesn’t know that they have the condition, nor does their bed partner always witness
the apneas, says Dr. Szekely. As a result, a person with undetected and untreated sleep apnea can go years (even decades!)
experiencing the damaging effects of repetitive oxygen deprivation—as well as the micro adrenaline bursts the body produces
to open up the airways. These patients experience disrupted sleep and lack continuous, deep, quality, refreshing sleep, and as
a result, do not feel refreshed in the morning and are generally fatigued during the daytime.
Consequences of Sleep Apnea on Other Organ Systems
Over time, the potential health consequences of untreated sleep apnea go beyond feeling sleepy and include:
Snoring, which may be a precursor to sleep apnea, does not have health consequences that physicians are currently aware of,
according to Dr. Szekely. It is however often a precursor to
sleep apnea and should be discussed with a physician.
The Relationship between AFib and Sleep Apnea
AFib and sleep apnea share many risk factors, likely due to increases in cardiovascular disease and obesity in the
population, including high blood pressure and diabetes. According to Dr. Szekely,
are keenly aware that 50 to 82 percent of AFib patients have undiagnosed sleep apnea. That is why cardiologists and other
healthcare professionals, including ophthalmologists, dentists and primary care providers, screen patients for a sleep
disorder. You can screen yourself for sleep apnea using this simple assessment tool:
DOWNLOAD SLEEP STUDY FORM
Do You Suspect That You Suffer From Sleep Apnea? We Can Help!
With 88 different sleep disorders currently identified, Dr. Szekely recommends that people seek professional help if a sleep
disorder is suspected. Some may need a diagnostic study called a sleep study or polysomnogram to identify a specific sleep
disorder. Fifty percent of sleep studies are conducted in the privacy of one’s own home using home study equipment that is
easy to administer and send back for analysis. Studies done in the sleep center are fully COVID-19 safety compliant, including
single-person rooms, mask-wearing,
cleaning and ventilation.
For sleep disorder consultation and patient evaluation, call 215.348.1310. For sleep study information, call
About Doylestown Health
Doylestown Health is a comprehensive healthcare system of inpatient, outpatient and wellness education services connected to meet the health needs of all members of the local and regional community. Doylestown Hospital, the flagship to Doylestown Health has 239 beds and a Medical Staff of more than 435 physicians in over 50 specialties. An independent nonprofit health system, Doylestown Health is dedicated to providing innovative, patient-centered care for all ages.