Woman sleepingPreliminary data from two studies suggest that mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnoea is associated with an increased risk of developing hypertension and diabetes.

Results also show that these associations were strongest in young and middle-aged adults.

"In young and middle-aged adults, our findings suggest that early detection and treatment of mild-to-moderate sleep apnea is warranted in order to prevent future cardiometabolic disease," said lead author and postdoctoral scholar Yun Li, MD. "Given the stronger association of sleep apnea with metabolic abnormalities in this age group, emphasis should be placed on yearly monitoring of indices of metabolic symptoms and lifestyle interventions, such as weight control, healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management."

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea is a serious condition where the muscles in the throat relax during sleep causing the sufferer to temporarily stop breathing. If untreated it can occur hundreds of times in a night leading to daytime fatigue and other serious health problems. Once diagnosed it can be easily treated.

According to  the Sleep Apnoea Trust, it is estimated that 5% of the population are affected by obstructive sleep apnoea. They are mostly (but not all) men, mostly (but not all) overweight, especially around the neck, and they all snore. They feel tired and sleepy during the day and at night are often observed to stop breathing. Common warning signs include snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness. While previous research has established that severe sleep apnoea increases the risk of hypertension and diabetes, data regarding mild-to-moderate sleep apnoea were unclear.

Both studies involved the Penn State Adult Cohort, a random general population sample of 1,741 adults. Participants completed a detailed medical history interview at baseline and were evaluated in a sleep center during an overnight sleep study. Those without hypertension or diabetes at baseline were followed up after 10 years.

The research abstracts were published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep.


Related content: Poor sleep can damage brains in later life