Sleep-Disordered Breathing

July 3, 2010  
Filed under Sleep Disorders

Sleep-disordered breathing, also called “Sleep apnea,”  is a common disorder that can be serious; it can contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke. In sleep apnea, your breathing stops or gets very shallow.  Each pause in breathing typically lasts 10 to 20 seconds or more.  These pauses can occur 20 to 30 times or more an hour.  In many cases, sufferers don’t realize they have the condition.

The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea. That means you are unable to get enough air through your mouth and nose into your lungs. When that happens, the amount of oxygen in your blood may drop. Normal breaths resume with a snort or choking sound. People with sleep apnea often snore loudly. However, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.

When your sleep is interrupted throughout the night, you can be drowsy during the day. People with sleep apnea are at higher risk for car crashes, work-related accidents and other medical problems. If you have sleep apnea, or any sleep disorder, it is important to get treatment.

Air Pollution and Breathing-related  Disruptions

A new study, conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham & Women’s Hospital, has found a link between air pollution and breathing-related disruptions during sleep.  According to the authors, this is the first attempt to document a link between exposure to pollution and sleep-disordered breathing.

In the study, researchers tried to discover if air pollution — which irritates the airways — has anything to do with sleep disruptions, which affect an estimated 17 percent of adults in the United States.

The authors of the study pored over data from the Sleep Heart Health Study, which examined the heart health and sleep patterns of more than 6,000 people between 1995 and 1998 and adjusted for factors such as age, gender, smoking and temperature so they wouldn’t throw off the results. They then compared those patterns to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air pollution data on seven cities: Minneapolis; New York City; Phoenix; Pittsburgh; Sacramento; Tucson, Ariz.; and Framingham, Mass.

They found that incidents of sleep apnea and low levels of oxygen during sleep went up as the temperature rose during all seasons of the year. Sleep-disordered breathing also rose during the summer as air pollution worsened.

Particles of pollution “may influence sleep through effects on the central nervous system, as well as the upper airways,” wrote co-author Antonella Zanobetti in a news release.

The study, funded by the U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the EPA and the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, appeared online June 14 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.


Antonella Zanobetti, Susan Redline, Joel Schwartz, Dennis Rosen, Sanjay Patel, George T O’Connor, Michael Lebowitz, Brent A Coull, and Diane R Gold
Associations of PM with Sleep-disordered Breathing in Adults from Seven U.S. Urban Areas.

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