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Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms at Night

People with Afib often don’t have any obvious signs, but if you have these symptoms, you may be at risk. A simple screening can give you peace of mind or early detection.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Andy Manganaro, MD, FACS, FACC

Published on 7/21/2021

Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms at Night

If you are frequently sleepy during the day, you may not only have sleep apnea, you may also be experiencing atrial fibrillation (Afib) symptoms at night, according to the world renowned Cleveland Clinic1.  Sleep apnea can disrupt the heart’s rhythms and this can create a dangerous situation. 

The two key signs of Afib are a fluttering feeling in the chest2 and a pulse rate of 100 beats per minute or higher3. People with Afib often don’t have any obvious signs, but if you have the following symptoms you may have Afib:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart palpitations (rapid, fluttering, or pounding)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

Chest pain or pressure is a medical emergency. You may be having a heart attack. Call 911 immediately4.

While there are several known causes of Afib, one of the most common is sleep apnea. Both conditions are often undetected, so it’s important to recognize the signs. Here is a checklist of sleep apnea symptoms:

  • Loud snoring
  • Episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep — which would be reported by another person
  • Gasping for air during sleep
  • Awakening with a dry mouth
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Difficulty paying attention while awake
  • Irritability

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation, or Afib for short, is the most common form of arrhythmia. It is an electric disorder of the heart which causes an irregular and often rapid heart rate. Afib occurs when the two upper chambers of your heart experience chaotic electrical signals5. The result is the upper chamber beats irregularly and out of sync with the lower chambers, creating the sensation of a flutter or thumping in your chest6.

Sometimes Afib goes away on its own. Other times it returns regularly and may be a result of heart damage.

What causes Atrial Fibrillation?

Abnormalities or damage to the heart’s structure are the most common cause of atrial fibrillation. Possible causes of Afib include:

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Cardiovascular disease
  3. Coronary artery disease
  4. Abnormal heart valves
  5. Heart defects you’re born with (congenital)
  6. An overactive thyroid gland or other metabolic imbalance
  7. Exposure to stimulants, such as medications, caffeine, tobacco or alcohol
  8. Sick sinus syndrome — improper functioning of the heart’s natural pacemaker
  9. Lung diseases
  10. Previous heart surgery
  11. Viral infections
  12. Stress due to surgery, pneumonia or other illnesses
  13. Sleep apnea

However, some people who have atrial fibrillation don’t have any heart defects or damage, a condition called lone atrial fibrillation. In lone atrial fibrillation, the cause is often unclear, and serious complications are rare.

Atrial fibrillation treatment

If you believe you may have Afib, the most important first step is to get a screening. Since Afib can increase the risk of stroke and heart failure7 , it’s important to get treatment under way as soon as your screening results come in.

If your screening results are abnormal, your doctor may order additional tests and then discuss treatment options with you, such as medicine and surgery. The goal of treatment is to slow your heart beat or restore your heart’s normal rhythm. Blood clots are a serious risk with Afib, so you will want to make heart-healthy lifestyle changes. Underlying conditions such as obesity, sleep apnea, and overactive thyroid glands can also increase the risk of Afib, so your doctor will likely want to screen for those conditions as well8.

Screening for Atrial Fibrillation

The most common test for Afib is an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). The EKG designed to identify Afib conducted by Life Line Screening is painless, non-invasive and does not require the removal of any clothing. While you are lying on your back, electrodes are attached to the wrists and ankles and a reading is taken of the electrical activity of the heart. A trained technician will review the readout from the EKG and determine if an irregular heartbeat is occurring during the screening. A board-certified physician will review your results before being shared with you. Your test results will indicate if your screening is normal or abnormal and will recommend that you follow up with your personal physician if needed.

An Atrial Fibrillation screening is just 1 part of our 5-screening package to identify risks of stroke and cardiovascular disease in 1 appointment.

Over 10 million people have already trusted Life Line Screening. Schedule your appointment with us today to get peace of mind or early detection.