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Research Questions Use of Sleep Meds for Patients with Apnea

ays used or average nightly use. Despite results, researchers believe prescription sleep medications, when used correctly, may prove helpful for a subset of patients with OSA.

“Studies have shown that almost half of patients with OSA have insomnia complaints,” said Capt. Bradshaw. “Our study does not support prescription sleeping pills for all new CPAP users, but OSA patients with insomnia symptoms might benefit.” Still, researchers remain cautious regarding the use of prescription sleep medications for patients with OSA.

“We are concerned, however, about the potential risk for worsening sleep apnea if patients intentionally or inadvertently remove the mask before the effects of the sleeping pill have worn off,” said Capt. Bradshaw. “Also, sleeping pills sometimes have residual daytime effects, such as sleepiness, and can interfere with cognitive function - both of which are already problems for many patients with OSA, even after treatment with CPAP.”

Upon completion of the trial, all patients showed significant symptom improvement on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) and Functional Outcomes of Sleep Questionnaire (FOSQ). Baseline demographics revealed no difference in age, body mass index, ESS, FOSQ, nadir oxygen saturation, or CPAP pressure setting among the three groups. Despite randomization, the standard care group had a higher apnea/hypopnea index than the other two groups.

“When used consistently, CPAP is a highly effective therapy for patients with obstructive sleep apnea,” said Mark J. Rosen, MD, FCCP, President of the American College of Chest Physicians. “More research is needed to determine interventions that can help optimize the initial experience with CPAP and improve long-term usage.”

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