Untreated Sleep Apnea Increased Metabolic and Cardiovascular Stress

General Medicine

A new survey of sleeping subjects, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism , reports untreated sleep apnea could elevate blood sugar and fat levels, stress hormones and blood pressure . Also, the study supports the reliable use of continuous positive airway pressure ( CPAP ), a machine that increases air pressure in the throat to keep the airway open during sleep .

Jonathan Jun, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said, "This is one of the first studies to show real-time effects of sleep apnea on metabolism during the night."

The studies published in the  American Journal of Epidemiology  and  Lancet Respiratory Medicine reported the effects of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) on adults (20-30%). In OSA, the upper airway closes off during sleep and temporarily interrupting breathing. The association between OSA and risks for diabetes and heart disease was identified, however, if OSA is a cause of these disorders or predisposing one to diabetes and heart disease. 

The OSA patients reported that OSA occurs since the participants were awake.

Researchers, to know the impact of OSA on metabolism , drew blood samples from patients (n = 31; mean age = 50.8; obese people) with moderate to severe OSA who had regular CPAP use and measured free fatty acids in the blood, glucose, insulin, and cortisol when they slept. They also recorded patients' brain waves, blood oxygen levels, heart rates and breathing, eye and leg movements every night of the study. 

Researchers, by withdrawing CPAP found that OSA recurred with sleep disruption , increased heart rate, and reduced blood oxygen, increased levels of free fatty acids, glucose, cortisol, and BP during sleep when CPAP was withdrawn. These parameters increase as the OSA severity increases. Increased fatty acids, glucose and cortisol have been associated with diabetes, increased blood pressure and vascular stiffness can cause cardiovascular disease .

Jun highlights, the study was restricted to people with severe OSA and obesity. Hence, the ability to apply the results to all OSA patients was limited.

The research further indicated that sleep apnea is not just a manifestation of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, but it can directly exacerbate the conditions. Researchers continued their study to find which patients are most vulnerable to the of OSA.