People with both insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to have heart problems and die nearly 50% more likely than people without either condition, say Flinders University researchers, who advise people tested for either condition to to be tested for the others.
Image source: Flinders University
“Insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea are the two most common sleep disorders that affect 10 to 30% of the population, but people can often have both at the same time,” says Dr. Bastien Lechat from the Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute: Sleep Health.
“Little was previously known about the effects of comorbid insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea (COMISA), but we knew that health outcomes for people with both conditions are consistently worse than for people with no or only one condition.”
Now, in a new study published in the European Respiratory Journal, Flinders researchers examined a large U.S. dataset of over 5,000 people to understand the risks of COMISA.
Participants, who were approximately 60 years old at the start of the study and 52% were female, were followed for approximately 15 years during which time 1,210 people died.
The results suggested that participants using COMISA were twice as likely to have high blood pressure and 70% more likely to have cardiovascular disease than participants without insomnia or sleep apnea.
The study also showed that participants with COMISA had a 47% increased risk of death (for whatever reason) compared to participants without insomnia or sleep apnea, even if other factors known to increase mortality have been taken into account.
“This is the first study to assess the risk of death in participants with comorbid insomnia and sleep apnea,” says Dr. Lechat, who led the research.
“Given that these people are at higher risk for health problems, it is important that people who undergo one screening for one disorder are also screened for the other.”
While more research is needed to investigate what could be causing the higher risk of death for people with COMISA, the researchers say further research is also warranted to ensure the treatments are working effectively.
Specialized treatments may be required for people with co-occurring disorders, so it is important that we study the effectiveness of insomnia and sleep apnea treatments in this particular population. “
Dr. Bastien Lechat, Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute: Sleep Health
The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health at Flinders University is continuing research to understand the reasons for the common occurrence of insomnia and sleep apnea and to develop more effective treatment approaches.
Lechat, B., et al. (2021) Comorbid insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea are linked to all-cause mortality. European respiratory journal. doi.org/10.1183/13993003.01958-2021.