The study published in the journal ERJ Open Research suggests that treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy can have additional benefits beyond improving sleep quality. OSA is a condition characterized by loud snoring, frequent nighttime awakenings, and interrupted breathing during sleep, which can lead to daytime fatigue and an increased risk of various health issues, including high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
CPAP machines work by delivering a continuous stream of air through a face mask, which helps keep the user’s airway open during sleep, preventing the disruptions in breathing associated with OSA. While CPAP is primarily prescribed to improve sleep quality and alleviate OSA-related symptoms, this study suggests that it may also have a positive impact on other nighttime symptoms, such as heartburn, coughing, and wheezing.
The study was led by Professor Thorarinn Gislason, from the department of sleep at Landspitali “The National University Hospital of Iceland in ReykjavÃk. He said: “When we experience heartburn or acid reflux, we are feeling stomach acid travelling up toward the throat. People with obstructive sleep apnoea are three times more likely to suffer regularly with night-time heartburn. Respiratory symptoms, such as coughing and wheezing, are also more common.”
Researchers conducted the study using data from the Icelandic Sleep Apnea Cohort study, involving 822 patients diagnosed with moderate to severe OSA. Before starting CPAP treatment, participants underwent overnight sleep studies and provided detailed information about their sleep habits and nighttime symptoms.
Two years after initiating CPAP treatment, participants returned for a follow-up evaluation. The researchers found that individuals who consistently used CPAP machines were approximately 42% less likely to experience nighttime heartburn compared to those who used CPAP infrequently or not at all. Additionally, the reduction in nighttime reflux in CPAP users was associated with a significant decrease in the risk of morning cough and chronic bronchitis.
While CPAP users also reported experiencing less wheezing, the data indicated that this reduction was likely a direct result of the CPAP treatment itself, rather than being solely caused by the decrease in nighttime reflux. Researchers suggest that CPAP treatment’s ability to keep the upper airway open during sleep may contribute to the closure of the valve between the stomach and the esophagus, preventing acid from escaping the stomach and causing heartburn.
This study highlights a potential additional benefit of CPAP therapy in individuals with OSA, as it may reduce nighttime heartburn and associated symptoms. By maintaining the integrity of the upper airway and potentially preventing acid reflux, CPAP treatment could provide relief beyond improving sleep quality in individuals with OSA.
Professor Gislason stated, “Obstructive sleep apnoea is a common condition and, although we have good ways to diagnose and treat it, many people do not realise they have this problem.”
“I”m 71 years old and I have been a specialist lung doctor all my working life. I have seen many patients with recurrent respiratory symptoms who have been diagnosed with OSA and recovered when they got CPAP treatment.”
“Snoring, frequent waking and day-time tiredness are established signs of OSA. This study suggests that coughing and wheezing that do not get better with the usual treatments and night-time reflux should also be considered as possible signs of OSA that may require CPAP treatment.”
Professor Winfried Randerath, Head of the European Respiratory Society”s Assembly on sleep disordered breathing, who was not involved in the research said: “OSA may manifest as loud snoring at night and daytime sleepiness, but research is showing that its effects can be widespread and serious. This study adds to our understanding of the risks of OSA, but it also shows how using CPAP treatment can help to reduce those risks.”
“People who think they may have OSA should speak to their doctor. Those who have been diagnosed and offered CPAP treatment should try to use the machine regularly as we are learning more and more about the health benefits that CPAP can bring.”
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