AFib or “atrial fibrillation” is a condition that causes an irregular or otherwise rapid heart rate within a patient. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms like heart palpitations, shortness of breath or a general sense of fatigue, AFib could very well be the cause. If left unchecked, it can increase one’s risk of additional factors like a stroke, a heart attack, kidney disease and even dementia – which is part of why making an effort to see your EP doctor on a regular basis is so important.

But as is true with most things with regards to our health, one of the most valuable tools we have available in the fight against atrial fibrillation is and will always be information. Case in point: a recent study revealed that sleep quality (independent of obstructive sleep apnea) is a major contributing factor to an eventual AFib diagnosis.

The Relationship Between Sleeping Habits and AFib

The major finding of the study revealed that out of a collection of patients who went through formal sleep studies, those who achieved REM sleep less frequently (or in an unreliable way) were at an increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation in the future. Sleep duration itself is less important than consistent sleep disruption. While it’s certainly true that the actual underlying mechanisms that cause this relationship remain unknown, it’s an essential development all the same – and one that will influence future research into the factors that influence AFib in the future.

This is the first study that demonstrates a clear relationship between poor sleep quality independent of sleep apnea and an increased risk of AFib moving forward. The influence of sleep apnea itself had been clearly demonstrated in the past, but for different reasons. Researchers agree that this is ultimately good news, as sleep quality is something that is easily modifiable and is, to a certain extent, under the control of individual patients. Even taking simple steps like exercising regularly, making sure that you get to bed at a reasonable hour on a regular basis and avoiding stimulants like coffee late in the day can all help mitigate the risk of AFib in the future.

If you or a loved one are living with a heart rhythm disorder such as atrial fibrillation, contact Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A. Dr. Dilip Mathew is Board Certified in Cardiology & Cardiac Electrophysiology and has been serving patients in Sarasota and surrounding cities including Port Charlotte, Venice, Tampa and Sun City Center for over a decade.