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Can my heart almost stop on a intermittant basis while I sleep?
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Can my heart almost stop on a intermittant basis while I sleep?

I have chronic health problems and just bought a recording oximeter. On the really bad nights when my Sp02 goes down below 70% (intermittently), my heart rate ‘says’ it goes down to 1bpm or 5bpm and only on the bad nights. Can these readings be accurate? Does my heart really almost stop???
Tags: Heart almost stops, 70% Sp02, recording oximeter
Avatar_dr_m_tn
Hi Minnie9090,

Thank you for your question.

The oximeter results that you have provided are consistent with obstructive sleep apnea, although a full medical history and examination and additional tests are needed to confirm that diagnosis.

Obstructive sleep apnea patients commonly snore heavily during sleep and have periods where their breathing stops (= 'apnea'). There is a clear association between obstructive sleep apnea and changes in heart rate and heart rhythm, including slow heart beats.

A heart rate of 1-5 bpm would be unexpected (and very concerning) and I wonder whether the oximeter is accurately measuring your true heart rate. I would certainly follow it up by arranging a heart rate monitor (called a 'Holter') to gain an accurate measure of your heart rate overnight.

Of course the ideal investigation would be for you to have a sleep study so that your sleep apnea, oxygenation, and heart rate can be properly monitored. You may already have the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea, and may even use a sleep machine, but it would still be beneficial for you to have a repeat sleep study given the finding of low oxygen levels overnight. Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea increases your risk of daytime sleepiness, irritability, low mood, and heart disease.

A final comment: if you have a history of passing out or near collapse associated with these slow heart rates it is important to review that with your doctor at your earliest opportunity.

Take care and good luck.
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