Sleep apnea raises chances of developing pneumonia
People with obstructive sleep apnea—a sleep-disrupting condition in which tissue obstructs the upper airway and limits or cuts off oxygen supply—may have an increased risk of pneumonia, according to a new study from Taiwan.
In the largest investigation of its kind, scientists followed more than 34,000 people—about 7,000 with sleep apnea and 27,000 without—between the year 2000 and 2010. When they compared data between the two groups, researchers found that the participants with sleep apnea were 1.2 percent more likely to develop pneumonia than the participants without sleep apnea. The researchers also concluded that risk of developing pneumonia increased with the severity of the sleep apnea.
Although the findings, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, suggests that sleep apnea is an “independent risk factor for incident pneumonia,” it is worth noting that the participants who developed pneumonia were older and had more illnesses—including heart disease and diabetes—which may have also played a role in the onset of pneumonia. The research team said that they believe the findings may have something to do with a relatively weak immune system or the aspiration of liquid between the throat and lungs, but acknowledged that further research is needed to better understand the link between sleep apnea and pneumonia.