Are you one of the people that tends to experience atrial fibrillation (AFib) symptoms at night? AFib symptoms at night are not uncommon, as many people struggle with them daily. But what interests us, and probably you, the most is the reason behind their occurrence. What exactly has been causing your AFib symptoms at night? Luckily, that is the exact question that we are here to answer.
What May Be Causing Your AFib at Night?
In the following, we will explain the three top causes of atrial fibrillation symptoms at night. The goal is to identify the cause and treat it accordingly. We hope that you too will be able to discover the reason behind AFib in your case.
1. Sleep apnea
According to the Sleep Foundation, approximately 18 million American adults are battling sleep apnea. Sleep apnea refers to a sleep disorder that causes brief and repeated interruptions of breathing during sleep.
The breathing has to be interrupted for 10 seconds or longer to be classified as sleep apnea.
There is a long list of risk factors that contribute to the occurrence of sleep apnea. The list includes being a smoker, being obese, alcohol use, having a small upper airway, etc.
One of the characteristic symptoms of sleep apnea is loud snoring. Because sleep apnea causes fragmented sleep and low blood oxygen levels, the individual tends to struggle with sleepiness throughout the day. Other symptoms such as depression, irritability, low concentration, etc. may be present as well.
Science reveals a strong link between AFib and sleep apnea.
It seems that half of the patients with AFIB have sleep apnea. But those with sleep apnea also tend to have four times the risk of developing AFib as well.
The symptoms of atrial fibrillation at night may be caused by sleep apnea.
Risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, alcohol drinking, etc. contribute to the development of both AFib and sleep apnea, which may explain the cause. Untreated sleep apnea can also lead to diabetes and high blood pressure, thus leading to AFib over time.
Luckily, with the treatment of sleep apnea, the symptoms of AFib seem to reduce as well. Sleep apnea is usually managed by wearing a CPAP oxygen mask. The CPAP oxygen mask makes it possible for the patient to control his breathing, thus improving AFib.
2. Late-night eating
Do you have the habit of late-night snacking? Perhaps you too, struggle with binge eating late at night, enjoy spicy and/or fast food rich in unhealthy fats. Did you know that your late-night snacking may be the cause of your AFib symptoms at night? There are two possible explanations.
The most obvious one is obesity. Spending night after night, eating unhealthy food will contribute to the risk of overweight and obesity. There is a clear link between obesity and AFib as one of the main causes. If obesity happens to be the cause of AFib, work on developing healthier eating habits.
Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bed and always choose whole foods over processed ones.
The second potential reason is GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD causes the stomach content and fluids to travel back into the esophagus. This condition can be caused by smoking, obesity, eating large meals, eating spicy and fatty food, etc. GERD can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, all of which can then trigger AFib. In the majority of cases, GERD is efficiently controlled with the use of antacids and lifestyle changes, which will help you relieve AFib as well.
3. Poor sleep quality
Struggling with sleep disturbances, other than sleep apnea, can contribute to the development of AFib, according to a 2018 study. Researchers looked at four different studies before deciding on poor sleep quality as one of the risk factors for AFib.
The results showed that those susceptible to more frequent nighttime awakenings carried a diagnosis of AFib more often than those who did not struggle with any sleep issues.
Having less REM sleep was often a deciding risk factor in the development of AFib. The researchers also explained that more research needs to be done, although their findings were quite promising.
If you happen to have poor sleep quality, do consult a medical professional. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day may be helpful. Avoiding mid-day naps and moving more can help as well. Getting away from the TV, phone, and/or computer screen before going to bed can also boost your sleep quality.
If it is anxiety that is worsening your sleep quality, you may want to try some relaxation methods such as yoga, regular physical activity, tai chi, and meditation.
Atrial fibrillation symptoms at night can disturb your sleep and cause extra anxiety. Figuring out their cause is the first step towards relieving them. Your doctor needs to know the cause to design a proper treatment plan.
The top causes of AFib at night are GERD, poor sleep quality, and sleep apnea.
Another thing that your doctor could find handy is your electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) results from times when you feel AFib symptoms. What you can do here is use a personal ECG device, which together with your smartphone lets you monitor your ECG on your own. Thereby, a doctor will have useful information about your heart condition and changes.
Luckily, all of these issues are usually well treated within a few months.