Study shows that CPAP therapy reduces fatigue, increases energy in patients with sleep apnea

January 1, 2011

Patients with obstructive sleep apnea often report that they feel like "a new person" after beginning treatment with continuous positive airway pressure therapy. A new study in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal SLEEP provides objective evidence to support these anecdotal reports, showing that three weeks of CPAP therapy significantly reduced fatigue and increased energy in patients with OSA.

Results of the randomized controlled trial show that CPAP therapy significantly reduced self-reported, mean fatigue scores on two independent measures: from 8.76 at baseline to -0.10 post-treatment on the Multidimensional Fatigue Symptom Inventory – Short Form; and from 7.17 at baseline to 4.03 post-treatment on the fatigue-inertia subscale of the Profile of Mood States – Short Form. These results indicate that participants were no longer suffering from clinically significant levels of fatigue after the three-week intervention period.

Self-reported energy levels also increased after three weeks of CPAP therapy, with the mean score on the vigor-activity subscale of the Profile of Mood States – Short Form increasing significantly from 14.28 at baseline to 16.52 post-treatment. Significant changes in fatigue and energy were not observed in participants who received placebo CPAP.

"This was one of the first double-blind studies of the effects of CPAP on fatigue," said lead author Lianne Tomfohr, graduate research assistant in the joint doctoral program at San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego. "These results are important, as they highlight that patients who comply with CPAP therapy can find relief from fatigue and experience increases in energy and vigor after a relatively short treatment period."

Further analysis found that CPAP appeared to be especially beneficial for participants who were excessively fatigued or sleepy before treatment. CPAP therapy significantly reduced self-reported daytime sleepiness in this group, with their mean score on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale dropping from 13.0 at baseline to 8.9 post-treatment.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, OSA is a common sleep-related breathing disorder that affects at least two to four percent of the adult population. OSA occurs when the muscles relax during sleep, causing soft tissue in the back of the throat to collapse and block the upper airway. Most people with OSA snore loudly and frequently, and they often experience fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness.

The treatment of choice for OSA is CPAP therapy, which provides a steady stream of air through a mask that is worn during sleep. This airflow keeps the airway open to prevent pauses in breathing and restore normal oxygen levels.

Tomfohr and a team of UCSD researchers studied 59 adults with a mean age of 48 years. Overnight polysomnography in a sleep lab confirmed that each participant had OSA, which was defined as having an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of 10 or more partial reductions (hypopneas) and complete pauses (apneas) in breathing per hour of sleep.

Participants were randomly assigned to receive either therapeutic CPAP or placebo CPAP, and they returned to the lab for a night of either CPAP titration or mock titration. Participants were trained on the use of the equipment and instructed to use it at home each night for three weeks. Questionnaire data were obtained prior to study randomization and after the three-week intervention period.

According to the authors, the mechanisms that underlie the observed changes in fatigue are unclear. They speculate that CPAP may impact fatigue in patients with OSA by reducing inflammation, noting that increases in inflammatory markers in OSA patients have been related to elevated .

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Remede system approved for sleep apnea

October 9, 2017
(HealthDay)—The Remede sleep system, an implanted device that treats central sleep apnea by activating a nerve that sends signals to the diaphragm to stimulate breathing, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Inflammation may precede sleep apnea, could be treatment target

September 1, 2017
Inflammation is traditionally thought of as a symptom of sleep apnea, but it might actually precede the disorder, potentially opening the door for new ways to treat and predict sleep apnea, according to researchers.

More evidence: Untreated sleep apnea shown to raise metabolic and cardiovascular stress

August 31, 2017
Sleep apnea, left untreated for even a few days, can increase blood sugar and fat levels, stress hormones and blood pressure, according to a new study of sleeping subjects. A report of the study's findings, published in the ...

Sleep patterns contribute to racial differences in disease risk

August 18, 2017
Poor sleep patterns could explain, in part, the differences in the risk of cardiometabolic disease between African-Americans and European-Americans, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy ...

Concerns that sleep apnea could impact healthspan

July 27, 2017
The number of people with obstructive sleep apnea has steadily increased over the past two decades. The disorder, which causes a person to briefly stop breathing when asleep, affects over 100 million people globally and is ...

Anti-nausea drug could help treat sleep apnea

June 6, 2017
An old pharmaceutical product may be a new treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, according to new research presented today by University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University scientists at the SLEEP 2017 annual ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 01, 2011
I have had apnea, for many years (way back before it had become the 'designer' disease of the month, years before it was found to be common..

'CPAP' is NOT a 'standard' treatment. Most people can not stand C***P. (70+%) It is what works for some, and 'those' some are what the data ALWAYS reflect (Kind of like 'polls' using stacked data, questions, and people, to be manipulated to only get answers wanted... like global warming).

I have NOT used CPAP for last 20+ years of Apnea.
Am I in the best of health? No.
Is CPAP 'tollerable?' NFW.

I have known many others with Apnea. None can wear it more than a few minutes.

My poll says your pollsters know how to get the answer that they want, and only want what suppliers ask for.

Knowledge of Apnea has grown over last 20 years... CPAP has modified form many times. From an annoyance, looking like brain monitors used in 1950's Sci-Fi... To ungainly rigs like Darth Vader's. And, He can't sleep in his, either.
not rated yet Jan 16, 2011
Sorry to hear cpap did not work for you theoldrang. Cpap gave me my life back. I use the new nasal pillows, and have no problems sleeping in any position and I average 8 hours per night on the machine. Where there is a will there is a way and I was determined to get my life back with the cpap machine. The first week was difficult, then I got used to it. Now it's no problem. You can also try the dental device, maybe that will work for you. Cpap gave me back my memory, improved my mood,ability to focus, and no more daytime sleepiness or scheduling my life around napping to make it through the day. Keep in mind, left untreated apnea increases your risk of a heart attack by 20x and diabetes by 2x. Check out the cpap forums.Find a good sleep Dr. Good luck.
not rated yet Feb 04, 2011
I am a 50 year-old conservative male. I am the skeptic's skeptic! For 5 years I refused my doctor's rec. to do a sleep study. I finally gave in. I have had a CPAP machine for a number of months now and it has absolutely changed my life. Energy, energy, energy! I feel like I'm 18 years old again. I don't need to take naps during the day, my memory has improved, and I am enjoying life again, and sleep! Wish I hadn't been so bull-headed 5 years ago!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.