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Risk of death is high in older adults with sleep apnea and daytime sleepiness
Date:3/31/2011

DARIEN, IL A study in the April 1 issue of the journal SLEEP suggests that the risk of death is more than two times higher in older adults who have sleep apnea and report struggling with excessive daytime sleepiness.

Results of adjusted proportional hazards modeling show that older adults with moderate to severe sleep apnea who reported struggling with excessive daytime sleepiness at baseline were more than twice as likely to die (hazard ratio = 2.28) as subjects who had neither problem. The risk of death was insignificant in older adults with only excessive daytime sleepiness (HR = 1.11) or sleep apnea (HR = 0.74). Participants had a mean age of 78 years at baseline, and about 55 percent (n = 160) died during an average follow-up period of 14 years.

"Excessive daytime sleepiness, when associated with sleep apnea, can significantly increase the risk of death in older adults," said principal investigator and lead author Dr. Nalaka S. Gooneratne, assistant professor of medicine in the University of Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia, Pa. "We did not find that being sleepy in and of itself was a risk. Instead, the risk of increased mortality only seemed to occur when sleep apnea was also present."

Gooneratne added that both daytime sleepiness and sleep apnea are common problems, with sleep apnea affecting up to 20 percent of older adults.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the upper airway during sleep. Older adults also are at risk for central sleep apnea, which involves a repetitive absence of breathing effort during sleep caused by a dysfunction in the central nervous system or the heart. Only four percent of participants had central sleep apnea, and there was no meaningful change in the results when they were excluded from the analysis
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Contact: Emilee McStay
emcstay@aasmnet.org
630-737-9700 x9345
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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