Respiration problems in sleep apnea – which causes people to momentarily stop breathing multiple times throughout the night, for seconds to minutes at a time – appear to worsen during the colder months of the year, according to a study from Brazil.
In the June issue of CHEST, the article “Is Sleep Apnea a Winter Disease? Meteorological and Sleep Laboratory Evidence collected over One Decade” concludes more sleep disordered breathing events were recorded in wintertime than in other seasons.
Changes in weight and seasonal allergies can affect sleep apnea, and researchers writing in the journal Chest wanted to see if weather changes might also have an impact. “More sleep disordered breathing events were recorded in wintertime than in other seasons.”
The authors utilized data from sleep clinic patients and looked at how many times their rest was disturbed by breaks in breathing. The study included one night of sleep for more than 7,500 patients over a 10-year-period.
Researchers then compared the severity of the patients’ apnea to the weather conditions at the time, including humidity, temperature and air pollution.
Patients who came in during colder months had more nighttime breaks in breathing than those who sought treatment during warmer months. During the winter, patients stopped breathing an average of 18 times an hour compared to 15 times an hour during the summer.
Similarly, the sleep clinic was more likely to see the most severe cases – people who stopped breathing more than 30 times an hour – during the colder months.
About 34 percent of patients who came in during cold weather had severe apnea, compared to 28 percent of patients during warmer weather.
The team found that certain weather conditions, such as high atmospheric pressure and humidity and high levels of the air pollutant carbon monoxide – were tied to worse cases of apnea.
But the study could not determine whether it was the weather itself that was responsible for the more severe apneas.
Source: Reuters Health