Many people nowadays are experiencing sleeping problems. Sometimes it is difficult to fall asleep and sometimes it is actually difficult to get some rest. A new study from the University of Adelaide revealed that older men who are suffering from extended episodes of interrupted breathing while asleep have a high risk of heart problems.
Scientists analysed heart-related deaths in 2840 men aged in their 70s and early 80s. They wanted to see if there is a relation between low blood oxygenation during sleep and heart-related deaths. Low oxygen saturation during sleep is a very well-known and documented problem, but it is not always solely related to sleep apnoea.
Scientists wanted to see what the actual causes for low oxygen saturation are so that they could create some basic recommendations for people who may be at risk of various conditions related to this problem. Now scientists are able to prove that poor blood oxygenation during sleep predicts the chance of heart-related death in elderly men.
Normally oxygen saturation in your blood during normal hours of the day should be around 95-100 %. During sleep it slightly decreases because you are breathing less deeply, but it should not go below 90 %. This research showed that for an older man to have 12 or more minutes of sleep at low oxygen saturation below 90 % meant and increased risk of heart-related death by 59 %.
Interestingly, 20 % of cases of poor oxygen saturation could not be attributed to sleep apnoea. Associate Professor Dominik Linz, leader of the research team, said: “Screening for and treatment of risk factors beyond sleep-disordered breathing and obesity might help to reduce nocturnal hypoxia in people who regularly experience long periods of time during the night below 90 per cent oxygen saturation”.
While scientists are talking about monitoring oxygen saturation during sleep, they are also pointing out that tools for that are already available and quite common. People can perform these tests themselves with GP’s advice or they could be administered in aged care facilities as part of a standard health check program. The key measurements to look out for are oxygen saturation and time spent at less than 90 % of oxygen saturation.
This study focused on older men, but it is likely that the same factors apply to other genders and age groups as well. If you are experiencing sleep-related problems, you should not overlook them. They could be largely meaningless, but they could also be something that is damaging your heart. Discuss these issues with your family doctor at your next appointment.
Source: University of Adelaide