Sleep apnea treatment helps patients and partners

September 08, 2003

(NORTHBROOK, IL, September 8, 2003) - Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) not only improves patients' lives, it can improve the lives of their bed partners, says a study published in the September issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP). The study found that when patients with OSA were treated with CPAP, the mental and physical health, and overall quality of life (QOL) of patients and their bed partners significantly improved. OSA is a common disorder that is characterized by repetitive episodes of upper airway closures during sleep that result in arousal from sleep and can often lead to daytime sleepiness. CPAP prevents upper airway closure, improving sleep quality and, subsequently, reducing daytime sleepiness.

"Snoring and sleep apnea interfere with the quality of sleep of both the patient and the bed partner. Many bed partners choose to sleep in separate rooms rather than endure continuous sleepless nights caused by sleep apnea," said lead author James M. Parish, MD, FCCP, Chair, Division of Pulmonary Medicine and Director, Sleep Disorders Center, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Arizona. "With CPAP therapy, patients and their partners can experience restful nights which can ultimately benefit them physically and mentally."

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale examined the effects of OSA on QOL in 54 pairs of patients and their regular bed partners and the effects of CPAP therapy on QOL in both groups after six weeks of patient treatment. Patients and bed partners completed three pre- and post-treatment questionnaires on their likelihood to fall asleep in routine situations, their overall physical and mental QOL, and their QOL specifically related to their experience with OSA. Prior to therapy, patients reported situational sleepiness more than the national norm, and overall QOL was significantly lower than national norms. Initial bed partner scores were similar to national norms, except in the category of bodily pain, which was below the expected norm. After CPAP treatment, both patient and partner scores showed a decrease in situational sleepiness and an increase in the majority of physical and mental QOL categories, including vitality, social functioning, role limitations due to physical health, and mental health. In addition, QOL scores specific to OSA improved in both patients and bed partners.

"It is unclear why initial reports from bed partners indicated normal QOL. It is possible that over time, patients and partners adapt to their poor sleep and believe that it is normal or expected," said Dr. Parish. "Patients, as well as their bed partners, should not endure the effects of sleep apnea but rather share the responsibility in seeking treatment for this serious but manageable condition."

Overall physical and mental QOL was categorized by physical functioning, role limitations due to physical health (role-physical), bodily pain, general health, vitality, social functioning, role limitations due to emotional problems (role-emotional), and mental health. QOL categories specific to OSA included daily functioning, social interactions, emotional functioning, symptoms, and treatment-related symptoms.

"When left untreated, sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can lead to more serious conditions, including hypertension, heart disease, and other cardiovascular complications," said Udaya B. S. Prakash, MD, FCCP, President of the American College of Chest Physicians. "Sleep medicine has greatly improved in recent years with new methods for diagnosing and treating sleep disorders. It is important for primary care and specialty physicians to educate patients on the health effects of sleep disorders and to inform them of the treatment options available."
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CHEST is a peer-reviewed journal published by the ACCP. It is available on-line each month at http://www.chestjournal.org. ACCP represents more than 15,000 members who provide clinical, respiratory, and cardiothoracic patient care in the United States and throughout the world. ACCP's mission is to promote the prevention and treatment of diseases of the chest through leadership, education, research, and communication.

American College of Chest Physicians

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