Air Pollution Linked To Higher Risk Of Sleep Apnea 

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Air Pollution Linked To Higher Risk Of Sleep Apnea 

| Updated: April 23, 2024 11:25

New study finds that air pollutants, especially nitrogen dioxide, might play a role in the health condition

A new study published by the International Neurotoxicology Association has found a link between air pollution and the risk and severity of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sleep apnea is a common and serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. 

The study suggests several ways by which the two are linked. Exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause inflammation throughout the body, and oxidative stress, which worsens upper airway dysfunction during sleep. 

The effects of air pollutants may vary based on the type of pollutant, duration of exposure, and individual susceptibility factors, including age, gender, and underlying health conditions. The elderly and overweight people are at higher risk of OSA. It is estimated that 11% Indians suffer from the condition, with men at higher risk.   

Major culprit

For the study, experts carried out a systemic review and meta-analysis of 12 studies. They found that air pollutants, especially NO2 (nitrogen dioxide), might play a role in worsening OSA risk and severity. The gas is among the air pollutants produced because of road traffic and other fossil fuel combustion processes. In high-pollution areas, clinicians should monitor patients more closely for OSA symptoms. 

OSA is marked by repeated occurrences of total or partial blockage of the upper airway while sleeping. These obstructions lead to recurrent arousals and significant reductions in blood oxygen saturation. OSA leads to health complications such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and impaired cognitive function.

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