A new study has shown that common sleep disorders like insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea can lead to cardiovascular problems that can also prove fatal. The study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, found that people with a combination of the two sleep disorders are more prone to early death.
“Insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea are the two most common sleep disorders that affect 10 to 30 percent of the population, but people can often suffer from both at the same time,” said Dr. Bastien Lechat from the Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute: Sleep The 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 people without or those with a single condition,” added Lechat added.
Flinders University researchers have now also examined a large US dataset of over 5,000 people to understand the risks of COMISA.
Participants were 60 years old at the start of the study, 52 percent female, who were followed for a period of approximately 15 years. 1,210 people died during the study period.
According to the study, participants using COMISA were twice more likely to have high blood pressure and 70 percent more likely to have cardiovascular disease than participants without insomnia or sleep apnea. It also indicated that participants using COMISA had a 47 percent increased risk of death (for whatever reason) compared to participants with none of the sleep disorders.
“This is the first study to assess the risk of death in participants with comorbid insomnia and sleep apnea,” said Dr. Lechat, who led the research.
“Given that these people are at higher risk for health problems, it is important that people who are screened for one disorder are also screened for the other,” added Lechat.
What are these sleep disorders about?
Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by a periodic cessation of airflow, which leads to a significant decrease in the level of oxygen in the blood and more frequent arousal. “It is seen more often in men, postmenopausal women, and those with obesity or with anatomical anomalies of the upper respiratory tract. They are associated with excessive snoring, frequent waking up from sleep, early morning headaches, lethargy, and a tendency to fall asleep during the day, said Dr. Viswesvaran Balasubramanian, Consultant Interventional Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad.
He also mentioned how insomnia, which is characterized by the inability to induce or maintain sleep, affects daily activities, which can be an acute or chronic phenomenon.
What causes insomnia?
According to Dr. Satya Ranjan Sahu, Specialist in Pneumology, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram, sleep disorders occur mainly due to lifestyle and psychiatric causes.
“Obesity and stress are the two main causes. They play a key role in worsening the prognosis of previous comorbidities such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Early diagnosis and lifestyle changes are some of the preventive measures, ”he said.
What can be done
According to Dr. Balasubramanian, early detection and appropriate treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy and other surgical procedures can lead to a reduction in morbidity and mortality. “In addition, several studies have shown that the highest risk of death from sleep apnea occurs in those under the age of 50 and that the risk tends to decrease with age,” said Dr. Subramaniam.
He added how non-pharmacological treatment for insomnia can help. “Emphasis is placed on the adoption of modalities such as adherence to sleep hygiene practices and the use of non-pharmacological treatments for insomnia such as cognitive therapy,” he said.
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