(E-Book Download) Understanding Cardiac Arrhythmia as a Sleep Technologist
What is heart arrhythmia? How do sleep technologists understand it?
Heart arrhythmias, also known as heart rhythm problems occur when the electrical impulses that coordinate your heartbeats don't work properly, causing your heart to beat too fast, too slow or just irregularly.
They may feel like a fluttering or racing heart and may be harmless. However, some heart arrhythmias may lead to irritating and sometimes even life threatening consequences.
Of course there is treatment for arrhythmias, which can often control or eliminate fast or irregular heartbeats. But because troublesome heart arrhythmias are often made worse — or are even caused — by a weak or damaged heart. Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle is one step to mitigating the risk of developing heart arrhythmias altogether.
But what is the role of sleep technologist in identifying and analyzing heart rhythm problems?
Understanding how to identify irregular heart rhythms within sleep study patients is essential
Whether it's changes in oxygen levels, sleep apnea or hypopnea, irregular heart rhythms is something a technologist can encounter in patient sleep study results.
What's most important is that the combination of obstructive sleep apnea with heart arrhythmias can be deadly.
Researchers taking part in a Sleep Heart Health Study from 1997, reported that patients with severe sleep apnea are two to four times more likely to experience complex, abnormal heart rhythms while sleeping than individuals without the problem.
Similar findings were reported by researchers from St. Louis University who studied 134 patients with coronary heart disease who hadn’t been diagnosed with a sleep disorder. In the patients who had a type of an irregular heartbeat called ventricular premature contraction, more than 40% also had severe sleep apnea—and didn’t realize it.
The real worry is that benign arrhythmia can be a harbinger of a much more serious—and lethal—heart rhythm disorder. While most people with the mild version of arrhythmia will be just fine, in some people it’s possible it can worsen during the night and lead to sudden death.
The researchers reported that sleep apnea seemed to exacerbate ventricular premature contraction, especially during the dream stage, or REM, of sleep. That’s because there’s less oxygen being pumped through the body in REM than in other stages of sleep, and this can bring on arrhythmia. The brain is less alert, which is why people don’t simply wake up to solve the problem.
The good news is that the AAST has a comprehensive e-book authored by former AAST president Jon Atkinson, BS, RSPGT, on how you can identify heart arrhythmias in patients.
Are you an AAST member and want to read more about how cardiac issues affected a sleep study patient elsewhere? Read an entry of our Case of the month by Dr. Rich Rosenberg for free!
Download our e-book below by clicking on the image below: