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Take sleep apnea seriously, says study

Medicine@Yale, 2006 - Jan Feb


It can be trying to share a bed with a person affected by obstructive sleep apnea, a common condition in which breathing stops repeatedly during sleep, since loud snoring is a telltale symptom. But a study from the Yale Center for Sleep Medicine (YCSM) provides new evidence that sleep apnea is more than an annoyance.

Since 1997, YCSM researchers had diagnosed sleep apnea in 697 patients using polysomnography, a technique that measures heart rate, breathing and other physiological variables during sleep. A follow-up study begun in 2002 revealed that 9 percent of these individuals suffered strokes or died, compared to only 1.6 percent of a control group.

As reported in The New England Journal of Medicine on November 10, after eliminating smoking, alcohol use and hypertension as factors, the scientists found that sleep apnea doubled the risk of stroke or death.

“Sleep apnea is a common and serious problem, but it is also highly treatable,” says H. Klar Yaggi, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and lead author. “If you or someone you know has symptoms of sleep apnea, it is important to discuss this with a doctor.”