sleep apnea, premature death

Sleep Apnea Could Be Fatal—Indirectly

August 04, 2008 06:06 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Sufferers of the common sleep disorder are more likely to suffer a premature death from other causes than those without the disease, according to new research.

30-Second Summary

Two new studies published in the August issue of the journal Sleep find that sleep apnea increases the risk of death from any cause, especially if untreated.

Adults with severe sleep apnea, or sleep-disordered breathing, are up to three times more likely to die prematurely from any cause, according to a Wisconsin study that analyzed 1,500 adults over an 18-year period. The study found that 19 percent of adults with a severe form of the condition died during follow-up, compared with only 4 percent of those who did not have the disease.

In another study, Australian researchers looked at data from an ongoing survey of 380 men and women and found that during a 14-year period, about 33 percent of the subjects who had moderate to severe sleep apnea died, compared with 6.5 percent who had a mild form of the disease, and 7.7 percent without the condition.

“Our findings … remove any reasonable doubt that sleep apnea is a fatal disease,” said Nathanial Marshall, a postdoctoral fellow at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, in an American Academy of Sleep Medicine news release. “People who have, or suspect that they have, sleep apnea should consult their physicians about diagnosis and treatment options.”

Sleep apnea causes a person to suffer shallow or paused breathing for about 10–20 seconds for up to 20 or 30 times an hour, according to the National Library of Medicine. About 6 percent of American adults have a moderate to severe form of the condition, and 17 percent suffer from milder forms, according to WebMD.

Sleep Apnea: The not-so-silent killer

Previous studies have hinted at a link between sleep apnea and premature death, but those studies were conducted in sleep centers. The Australian study confirms that the risk is present among the general population, reports U.S. News & World Report. “This is the first study to demonstrate an independent association between all-cause mortality and sleep apnea in a community-based study,” researcher Marshall said.
The researchers involved in the Wisconsin study say that proper treatment of the disease, such as the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to keep airways open during sleep, can decrease the risk of death.

Opinion & Analysis: Time to address a real danger

About 25 percent of Britons suffer from any of 80 sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, idiopathic, hypersomnia and Kelin-Levin syndrome. “There are thousands of medical conditions jostling for GPs’ attention. But with so many sufferers in the UK, surely it’s time for the medical profession to wake up to sleep disorders.”

Reference: More on sleep apnea, and the two studies

Sleep apnea
The two sleep apnea studies

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