Intense awakenings during the night may contribute to sleep apnoea

November 1, 2016
Illustration of obstruction of ventilation. Credit: Habib M’henni / public domain

Researchers from Neuroscience Research Australia have identified a potential new cause for obstructive sleep apnoea. Specifically, how 'intensely' a person wakes during the night.

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a common breathing disorder that affects nearly one million Australians who experience closure or narrowing of the upper airway during sleep. When untreated, OSA is associated with major adverse health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease and neurocognitive impairment.

These interruptions to breathing are often associated with brief awakenings (cortical arousals), which disrupt sleep continuity. Historically, arousals have been assumed to be vitally important in restoring airflow at the end of obstructed breathing events. However, it is now believed that different levels or intensity of arousal may have quite different effects on sleep and breathing.

A recent study led by Dr Jason Amatoury, in collaboration with investigators at the University of Manitoba (Canada) and Harvard University (USA), aimed to determine if arousal intensity was related to the strength of the preceding respiratory event that caused the awakening. The study found that the two were independent of each other, suggesting that the intensity of arousals may be an inherited characteristic.

The study also revealed that more intense arousals caused larger breathing responses to awakening, and had different effects on the muscles around the throat that act to stablise and open the airway.

It is thought that higher arousal intensity contributes to OSA by destabilising breathing control and contributing to upper airway collapse upon return to sleep. "Higher arousal intensity can cause increased hyperventilation, resulting in excessive reductions in carbon dioxide levels, which can then lead to hypoventilation (breathing at an abnormally slow rate) and disturbance upon return to sleep," says Dr Amatoury.

"We know that repetitive breathing disruptions can not only severely affect sleep quality and lead to , it can also place stress on the heart and cardiovascular system, leading to the risk of high blood pressure, stroke or sudden cardiovascular death. So it's important we understand more about arousals in sleep apnoea so we can develop more targeted and effective therapies to treat patients in whom arousals may be directly contributing to their OSA."

Future studies will focus on what this means for people for whom the condition is inherited and whether OSA will be easier or harder to treat in this cohort. The current findings raise the possibility that this may be a target for new therapies in these people.

Explore further: Not all sleep apnea patients are obese

More information: Arousal Intensity is a Distinct Pathophysiological Trait in Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Sleep. 2016 Oct 2 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27784404

Related Stories

Not all sleep apnea patients are obese

September 26, 2016
Contrary to popular opinion, not all people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are obese. However, a new study from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and the Prince of Wales Hospital (POWH) highlights that ...

Link between schizophrenia and sleep apnoea

August 24, 2016
New University of Adelaide research at the Lyell McEwin Hospital has shown that people with schizophrenia are 3.4 times more likely to have severe obstructive sleep apnoea than people without.

Study offers treatment hope for sleep disordered breathing

February 10, 2016
People with a condition that causes them to stop breathing in their sleep could be helped by new research.

Researchers release global sleep apnoea study

August 29, 2016
The largest sleep study ever undertaken has found that the leading therapy for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), does not reduce recurrent strokes and heart attacks in people with ...

Insomnia? Oversleeping? Both may increase your risk of stroke

August 3, 2016
There is growing evidence that sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea are related to stroke risk and recovery from stroke, according to a recent literature review. The review is published in the August 3, 2016, online ...

Recommended for you

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 ...

New disposable, wearable patch found to effectively detect sleep apnea

June 4, 2017
Results of a definitive clinical trial show that a new, disposable diagnostic patch effectively detects obstructive sleep apnea across all severity levels.

Childhood sleep apnoea is common but hard to diagnose

April 28, 2017
The cessation of breathing during sleep caused by enlarged tonsils is common in preschool-age children and can cause serious complications, but the methods normally used to diagnose the condition are subjective and unreliable. ...

Curbing sleep apnea might mean fewer night trips to bathroom

March 27, 2017
(HealthDay)—Millions of Americans battle bothersome nighttime conditions, such as sleep apnea or the need to get up frequently to urinate.

Untreated sleep apnea in children can harm brain cells tied to cognition and mood

March 17, 2017
A study comparing children between 7 and 11 years of age who have moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnea to children the same age who slept normally, found significant reductions of gray matter - brain cells involved ...

Dietary supplement derived from tree bark shows promise for treating obstructive sleep apnea

February 24, 2017
Obstructive sleep apnea, which causes people to briefly stop breathing while asleep, affects an estimated 5 percent of the population, not including the many more who don't even realize they suffer from the disorder.

0 comments

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.