Study Finds That Sleep Apnea Increases Risk of Sudden Death

Research conducted by Penn State College of Medicine has discovered that individuals who are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea have a higher risk of sudden death in comparison with individuals who don’t have sleep apnea.

Estimates show that more than one billion people globally suffer from this chronic sleep disorder. The disorder causes a blockage of airflow when an individual is sleeping. This disturbance can also manifest as non-refreshing sleep, heavy snoring, fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness.

The study was published in “BMJ Open Respiratory Research.”

The researchers conducted a systematic literature review and identified more than 20 studies focusing on sudden death, cardiac death and obstructive sleep apnea. They then analyzed the combined data from this research using meta-analysis, noting that quantitative analysis included a total of more than 40,000 people around the globe.

About 65% of the participants were men, with the mean age being 62. The meta-analysis revealed that people with obstructive sleep apnea were almost twice as likely to experience sudden death. The researchers also found that the chronic sleep disorder also increased the risk of cardiovascular death, noting that the risk increased even more with age.

Dr. Ryan Soose from the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center stated in an interview that untreated sleep apnea patients had higher chances of developing heart disease and high blood pressure, among other health conditions. He added that the risk of sudden death discovered in this study only made timely diagnosis and treatment even more crucial.

One of the authors of the study, Dr. John S. Oh, stated that most individuals didn’t realize the seriousness of an obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis, noting that the condition had fatal consequences.

The central nervous system’s effects on an individual’s sleep cycle may be used to explain the link between the increased risk of sudden death and sleep apnea. As mentioned above, individuals with sleep apnea experience intermittent lack of oxygen, which may cause the central nervous system to increase airflow. This results in an increase in both the diastolic and systolic blood pressure of a person.

The study’s co-author Emily Heilbrunn explains that providing affordable and accessible treatments for patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea would help decrease adverse health outcomes for those individuals.

It should be noted that no studies from Africa were included in the meta-analysis, which featured research from South America, Asia, Europe Australia and North America. The researchers assert that more studies need to be conducted in order to determine if the study’s findings apply to populations in Africa.

To address this significant risk factor for sudden death, a number of firms have developed cutting-edge treatment systems that ensure that people will sleep and breathe properly even with a sleep apnea diagnosis.

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