Sleep apnea is almost always blamed on obesity.
But a new study published in Acta Medica demonstrates another body-wide function responsible for sleep apnea.
This new finding may completely change how we treat this disease.
The researchers conducted a study with adults who were getting examined for sleep apnea for the first time.
They used a special sleep study test called polysomnography, with sensors attached to their sleeping subjects to monitor everything from their brain waves to their breathing.
The participants were divided into four groups based on their condition severity, determined by the apnea-hypopnea index.
This is a measure of how much their breathing was disrupted during sleep. The groups were no, mild, moderate, and severe sleep apnea.
Then researchers wanted to know how body-wide inflammation affected sleep apnea.
They were interested in four inflammation markers in their subjects’ blood: neopterin, YKL-40, IL-6, and TNF-alpha. These markers are the biological “flags” that indicate how much inflammation is in the body.
This is what they discovered.
1. In those in the severe group, levels of neopterin and IL-6 were higher compared to those with mild or no sleep apnea.
2. Like neopterin and IL-6, YKL-40 levels were also higher in severe patients, but this time compared only to the healthy group. It didn’t show much difference between mild, moderate, and severe sleep apnea.
3. TNF-alpha didn’t show much of a change across different severities, suggesting that it might not be as closely linked to apnea-related inflammation as the other markers.
Now it’s not totally clear if sleep apnea is caused by the inflammation or if the inflammation is caused by sleep apnea. Or if they have some third factor in common.