Sleep apnoea sufferers face a 17% higher risk of pneumonia

People with sleep apnoea may be at much greater risk for developing pneumonia, according to a new study. And the more severe the sleep apnoea, the greater the risk, the research suggests.

SleepPro and apnoea

The sleep disorder causes the upper airway to become blocked, cutting off the supply of oxygen during sleep. The researchers said this increases the risk for aspiration, or inhaling contents or fluid from the throat into the lungs. This can put people at much greater risk of developing pneumonia.

The researchers found that patients with untreated sleep apnoea have a 17% greater risk of developing pneumonia than those without the sleep disorder. Untreated sleep apnoea doesn’t just raise the risk of pneumonia – it’s also unfriendly to the heart.

The 11-year study involved over 34,000 patients and almost 7,000 of these participants had sleep apnoea, and about 27,000 did not. The researchers found that more than 9%of the sleep apnoea group at some stage developed pneumonia, compared to just over 7% of those without the sleep disorder. In addition the risk was significantly higher among patients who were using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, always previously considered as the gold standard for treating sleep apnoea.

Pneumonia can affect anyone, and it often occurs during the autumn and winter months. If you catch it, pneumonia can be serious and highly life threatening.  It is caused by infection from bacteria, viruses or fungi, which irritate the lungs. This irritation causes the tiny air sacs in your lungs to become inflamed and swell up with fluid. Pneumonia could have dramatic longer-term effects on your life; stopping you from carrying out simple daily activities that are often taken for granted.

  • Up to 1 in every 100 UK adults develop pneumonia each year and over 172,000 adult hospital admissions are due to pneumonia – 1 in 5 of them occurring in people aged under 65.
  • If you have a heart condition and have pneumonia, you are over four times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
  • More than 50,000 UK adults die of pneumonia each year and it is one of the most common causes of death due to infection in both men and women.

Sleep apnea is a chronic sleep disorder that affects approximately 20 million North Americans, many still undiagnosed because there isn’t a simple test that can diagnose the condition. With cases of sleep apnoea, breathing repeatedly starts and stops throughout the sleep cycle. The interruption in breathing can last seconds to minutes, and normal breathing usually resumes with a loud snort or choking sound.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), treating sleep apnoea may protect your heart from harmful changes that contribute to heart disease. An AHA study found six months of treatment reversed abnormal heart changes related to sleep apnoea in study participants.

Sleep apnoea is most commonly treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), or a custom-fitted oral appliance that eliminates snoring while keeping the airways open to promote healthy breathing. According to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, it can help promote a healthy respiratory system too.

People with sleep apnea often snore loudly, and are tired, even after a full night’s sleep because their sleep cycle is so frequently interrupted. Unfortunately they are rarely aware of this and it is best if their partner observes to see who snores heavily and note if these interruptions happen.

OSA is the more common type and happens when the muscles in the throat relax during sleep, resulting in the collapse or blockage of the airway. It can affect anyone, but is more common in obese individuals.

Treatment is both vital and simple, and most people who have mild to moderate sleep apnoea can control the effects by using a tailor-made oral appliance – a mouthpiece that simply adjusts the position of the lower jaw and in doing so keeps the airway open. No more snoring – and no health danger of the types described earlier.

Don’t ignore it – make 2016 a great year for good sleep and good health.

 

John Redfern