Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night. It is often connected to problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Now, studies (1,2) are starting to show, it may also be connected to accelerated aging.
A study performed at the Harvard Medical School in Boston that was published in the journal Sleep in April 2019, evaluated 662 adults, male and female. The participants brain waves, breathing patterns, blood/oxygen levels, heart rate and limb movements were all closely monitored. Researchers also measured the participants’ DNA methylation, a marker for epigenetic age acceleration (3).
Lead researcher, Xiaoye Li, believes a person’s “biological age may not be the same as their chronological age.” The study found that more serious sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), like that of sleep apnea, is linked to epigenetic age acceleration. The study provided biological evidence that supports negative health and physiological effects of untreated sleep-breathing disorders. Results of this study found a higher percentage of the women were affected than the men, which suggests that they may be more vulnerable to the negative effects of SDB.
Research out of Portugal published in Trends in Molecular Medicine in July 2017(1), has scientists believing that sleep apnea exasperates a number of neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases, possibly lessening the amount of healthy years in a person’s life.
This study gathered information that led researchers to the hypothesis that OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) accelerated age-related deterioration. They believe that when you treat sleep apnea and stop its progression you will improve the quality of life in patients and also delay age related health issues.(4) Their research finds the prolonged disruption in blood oxygen levels and sleep fragmentation side effects of sleep apnea can cause epigenetic changes, increased inflammation and other trademarks of aging.
Researchers of both studies agree that more research needs to be done on the subject before any absolute conclusions are made on the subject. However, it does appear from early research that sleep apnea can accelerate the aging process.
Fortunately, sleep apnea is a treatable condition, and the adverse effects it has had on the body can be reversable. Treatments for sleep apnea include sleeping with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device, APAP (automatic positive airway pressure) therapy and sleeping with an MRD (mandibular repositioning device).
If you are looking for information about sleep devices and products or services for treating obstructive sleep apnea, visit us at Valley Sleep Therapy or call us at (480) 361-0124.
- Gaspar, L. (2017), Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Hallmarks of Aging, Trends in Molecular Medicine
- Xiaoyu Li, ScD (2019), 0291 Sleep Disordered Breathing Associated with Epigenetic Age Acceleration: Evidence from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, Sleep Journal
- Bergland, C. (2019) Sleep-Disordered Breathing May Speed Up Aging, Psychology Today
- Cell Press (2017), Concerns that sleep apnea could impact healthspan. Science Daily