Variability of Sleep Apnea Severity and Risk of Atrial Fibrillation: The VARIOSA-AF Study

JACC Clin Electrophysiol. 2019 Jun;5(6):692-701. doi: 10.1016/j.jacep.2019.03.005. Epub 2019 May 1.


Objectives: This study sought to determine night-to-night variability in the severity of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and the dynamic intraindividual relationship to daily risk of incident atrial fibrillation (AF) by using simultaneous long-term day-by-day SDB and AF monitoring.

Background: Night-to-night variability in SDB severity may result in a dynamic exposure to SDB related conditions impacting the timing and extent of cardiovascular responses.

Methods: This study was an observational cohort study. Daily data for AF burden and average respiratory disturbance index (RDI) were extracted from pacemakers capable of monitoring nightly SDB and daily AF burden in 72 patients. Nightly RDI values were grouped into quartiles of severity within each patient. AF burdens of >5 min, >1 h, and >12 h were the outcome variables.

Results: A total of 32% of patients had a mean RDI of ≥20/h, indicative of overall severe SDB. There was significant night-to-night variation in RDI reflected by an absolute SD of ±6.3 events/h (range 2 to 14 events/h) within any given patient. Within each patient, the nights with the highest RDI (in their highest quartile) conferred a 1.7-fold (1.2 to 2.2; p < 0.001), 2.3-fold (1.6 to 3.5; p < 0.001), and 10.2-fold (3.5 to 29.9; p < 0.001) increase risk of having at least 5 min, 1 h, and 12 h, respectively, of AF during the same day compared with the best sleep nights (in their lowest quartiles).

Conclusions: There is considerable night-to-night variability in SDB severity which cannot be detected by 1 single overnight sleep study. SDB burden may be a better metric with which to assess the extent of dynamic SDB related cardiovascular responses such as daily AF risk than the categorical diagnosis of SDB. (Night-to-Night Variability in Severity of Sleep Apnea and Daily Dynamic Atrial Fibrillation Risk [VARIOSA-AF]; ACTRN 12618000757213).

Keywords: atrial fibrillation; burden; dynamic substrate; night-to-night variability; pacemaker; sleep-disordered breathing.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology*
  • Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy Devices*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Logistic Models
  • Monitoring, Physiologic*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology*

Associated data

  • ANZCTR/ACTRN12618000757213