Sleep Breathing Disorders May Worsen COVID-19 Outcomes
A study conducted by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found a primary factor that could lead to hospitalization or cause death from coronavirus—sleep breathing disorders. The results from the study suggest that people who suffer from sleeping disorders have a 31% more chance of hospitalization and even death.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Cinthya Peña Orbea, believes that increased hypoxia resulting from disordered breathing during sleep causes increased inflammation in different organs in the body, which leads to more severe COVID-19. The researchers didn’t find evidence that a breathing disorder can make a person more prone to acquire SARS-CoV-2.
Sleep-disordered breathing affects around 1 billion people worldwide and is characterized by an abnormal respiratory pattern during sleep. It involves snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, and upper airway resistance syndrome. This syndrome can lead to hypoxia—an insufficient oxygen supply.
Concerning the study, the research team used sleep study data from 5,402 patients at the Cleveland Clinic. The findings indicate that baseline sleep-related hypoxia is linked to the progression of hypoxic insult and injury related to hypoxia in COVID-19 pathophysiology. The researchers also suggest that a sleep-breathing disorder may promote the occurrence of other COVID-19 risk factors, for instance, pulmonary parenchymal inflammation, microinfarcts, lung injury, and hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction.
Dr. Peña Orbea believes that in order to understand the influence of sleep-related hypoxia in vaccine effectiveness, further research is needed. Also, there is a need for risk stratification strategies concerning individuals who suffer from sleep-related breathing disorders. For example, to help people with high nocturnal hypoxic physiological stress avoid severe COVID-19 outcomes, it is necessary to provide supplemental oxygen or use positive airway pressure machines. Furthermore, if a sleep breathing disorder is a marker of severe COVID-19, physicians should intervene more aggressively in the early stages of the disease to prevent serious consequences.
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