Healthy Living

Study Shows that Inflammation Occurs Before Sleep Apnea

Study Shows that Inflammation Occurs Before Sleep Apnea

If a person has shallow breaths or has one or more pauses in breathing while he or she sleeps, then that may be because of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a kind of disorder when the upper airway is occasionally hampered during a person’s sleep. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the pauses may last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur 30 times within an hour. This leads to having a poor quality of sleep and a feeling of extreme tiredness in the morning even if one has completed that full night sleep. Apparently, this leads to lack of concentration on any daytime tasks.

Sleep Education indicated that when the body lacks oxygen, it may lead to negative consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, prediabetes and diabetes, and depression.

Sleep apnea is hard to diagnose. The victims of this disorder do not even know that they have it since the signs only come out when they are asleep. Thus, a family member may be the one to first recognize these signs.

Sleep Apnea: The Three Main Types

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea:This is the most well-known type of sleep apnea. It can be identified through the relaxation of the throat muscles, which causes it to block the airway during a person’s sleep.
  • Central  Sleep Apnea:This is characterized by the repeated stops and starts of one’s breathing during sleep.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome: This type of sleep apnea was the last to be discovered among the three. This is characterized as the combination of the two types. According to the researchers who discovered this type, a person with complex sleep apnea syndrome tend to snore at first, then stops 20 to 30 times per hour each night.

The standard treatment for this syndrome is done by wearing a mask during sleeping. This delivers a continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP.


The relationship of sleep apnea and inflammation has been studied for a long time now. Back in 2013, as stated in The New York Times, a study was made by a team of researchers who carried out a meta-analysis on over 1,000 patients. It was shown that by treating sleep apnea with CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure can reduce the levels of two proteins associated with inflammation. These are the tumor necrosis factor and the C-reactive protein or CRP. That’s why the use of CPAP or the continuous positive airway pressure was highly recommended to reduce the inflammation.

A study even suggested the significant effect of using CPAP in decreasing one’s blood pressure and C-reactive protein by 20%. According to an issue of the New England Medicine, a combination of CPAP and weight loss gives a more effective attempt of reducing the CRP levels.

Now, as stated in the News Medical Life Sciences, this disorder affects 17-24% of men while 5-9% of women. This is because men have more belly fat as compared to women. This lead them to have a risk of getting sleep apnea. Meanwhile, the levels of inflammation were also increased.

Sleep apnea is greatly related to high inflammation levels. This means that the reaction of one’s immune system, the white blood cells or WBC, produces some chemicals to stop the foreign substance inside a person’s body.

Previous studies have already shown the big relationship of obesity and inflammation. Until these finally discovered the relationship of sleep apnea and inflammation. However, no one was sure which occurred first, the sleep apnea or the inflammation.
So, a group of researchers from Penn State College of Medicine were curious about which comes first: sleep apnea or the inflammation? According to Jordan Gaines, one of the researchers of the study, the inflammation is the result of the reduced levels of blood oxygen during breathing pauses at night. Moreover, a number of studies revealed that reducing inflammation has the same effect to sleep apnea. Thus, they have suggested that this relationship may go the opposite direction.

Then, they conducted the research on the sleep apnea patients ( 51 total). The patients were of ages 5 to 12 years old. There were two visits done: (1) at the very start of the study and (2)  after eight years. The patients underwent a sleep study, as well as blood draw and physical exams throughout the course of the study. The participants were monitored by the researchers to make sure the accuracy of the data gathered. They measured the participant’s sleep apnea severity, measured his or her weight and height, and checked his or her blood (to check the C-reactive protein or CRP levels, which is also known as a marker of inflammation.
After the data analysis, they found out that the boys who increased their waist circumference also increased their CRP. Aside from that, increased CRP results in the existence of sleep apnea, specifically in the adolescence stage.

Gaines stated that the findings of the study suggested that the abdominal fat inflammation precedes the development of sleep apnea. This is contrary to what others believed that inflammation occurs as a result of sleep apnea. Another finding of the study also revealed one solution to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea is weight loss.

Hence, metabolic factors should be well-observed even during adolescence. According to Alexandros Vgontzas, a Penn State professor, the results may change the physician's’ view on the treatment and prognoses of sleep apnea in patients, may it be children or adults. Thus, other alternative treatments other than CPAP is developed so that the other patients who are not a fan of CPAP can now have other choices. Vgontzas also said that the new finding may also help doctors in making prognoses.


It is a clear fact that sleep apnea and body fats are related. Thus, it is important for one to maintain a fit body to avoid this kind of disorder. This should not be maintained by adults only but also by kids, especially for males since they are the common patients of this disorder. It is much advisable to start maintaining a good health at a young age so that disorders like sleep apnea will be avoided. Since most major diseases usually create minor yet risky ones, so exerting effort in keeping a healthy body serves as one’s overall protection. After all, doing it does not give a person one but thousands of health benefits.