Here’s the answer for CPAP users who think they can get away with skipping a few nights a week of treatment; untreated sleep apnea can raise blood sugar after only a few days.
And after only a few days this can also raise blood fat levels.
This news blows to CPAP users who find the device uncomfortable and are wondering if they could use it only four or five days a week without threatening their health.
The news gets worse: Not treating sleep apnea for even a few days may result in higher stress hormone levels and raise blood pressure.
This information comes from a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
What makes this study intriguing is that the data was collected while the subjects were asleep. Previous metabolic studies collected data when they were awake.
Jonathan Jun, MD and lead study author, and his colleagues took blood samples from 31 faithful CPAP users who had moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. Average age was 50.8 and average body mass index reflected obesity.
The blood draws occurred every 20 minutes beginning at 9 pm till 6:40 am.
The participants spent one night at the lab using CPAP when this was done, and two nights without CPAP, in random order, and separated by one to four weeks.
Two Nights without CPAP
• Just two nights without the device instigated a recurrence of OSA: disrupted sleep, elevated pulse and reduced blood oxygen.
• In that small time frame there were also higher levels of blood sugar, cortisol (the “stress hormone”), free fatty acids and higher blood pressure.
• The more severe the sleep apnea (higher AHI), the more these metrics increased.
• Some of the patients had diabetes. Their blood sugar was increased the most from CPAP withdrawal.
• Come morning, there were signs of arterial stiffness—a potential contributor to cardiovascular disease.
• All of the participants had severe OSA and were obese.
• Thus, the results cannot be confidently applied to other demographics with severe sleep apnea or those with mild to moderate OSA.
• Another consideration is the placebo effect. This could have been a factor in some of the patients during the CPAP withdrawal.
A sham CPAP device (without the participant knowing, of course) may have altered the study results.
For instance, going to sleep without one’s CPAP could trigger ongoing anxiety, which in turn could raise blood pressure, blood sugar and elevate heart rate!
Though not mentioned in Jun’s paper, a really interesting study would be to see if oral appliances for two nights in compliant CPAP users would cause any of the aforementioned changes.
Broader demographics and sham devices would need to be used to reduce study limitations.