Sleep-disordered breathing and excessive daytime sleepiness in patients with atrial fibrillation

Chest. 2012 Apr;141(4):967-973. doi: 10.1378/chest.11-0975. Epub 2011 Sep 8.


Background: An important consequence of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). EDS often predicts a favorable response to treatment of SDB, although in the setting of cardiovascular disease, particularly heart failure, SDB and EDS do not reliably correlate. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is another highly prevalent condition strongly associated with SDB. We sought to assess the relationship between EDS and SDB in patients with AF.

Methods: We conducted a prospective study of 151 patients referred for direct current cardioversion for AF who also underwent sleep evaluation and nocturnal polysomnography. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) was administered prior to polysomnography and considered positive if the score was ≥ 11. The apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) was tested for correlation with the ESS, with a cutoff of ≥ 5 events/h for the diagnosis of SDB.

Results: Among the study participants, mean age was 69.1 ± 11.7 years, mean BMI was 34.1 ± 8.4 kg/m(2), and 76% were men. The prevalence of SDB in this population was 81.4%, and 35% had EDS. The association between ESS score and AHI was low (R(2) = 0.014, P = .64). The sensitivity and specificity of the ESS for the detection of SDB in patients with AF were 32.2% and 54.5%, respectively.

Conclusions: Despite a high prevalence of SDB in this population with AF, most patients do not report EDS. Furthermore, EDS does not appear to correlate with severity of SDB or to accurately predict the presence of SDB. Further research is needed to determine whether EDS affects the natural history of AF or modifies the response to SDB treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atrial Fibrillation / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / complications*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Sleep Stages*