Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) occurs when an individual repeatedly stops breathing, sometimes as many as 1-2 times a minute during their sleep. It is most frequently associated with heavy snoring, broad swings in heart rate, and, as one would expect, extreme daytime sleepiness. Those that suffer with sleep apnea are prone to accidents; they are twice as likely to be involved in car crashes as compared to individuals without the condition.
The relationship between inflammation and sleep apnea is complicated, with not only inflammation of the airways, but body-wide inflammation as well.
As with other inflammatory conditions, obstructive sleep apnea is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Visceral fat, belly fat, is a major predictor of having obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, since fat cells produce large amounts of immune modulating molecules, that trigger inflammation.
People suffering with sleep apnea have complex imbalances of immune factors, cytokines. Their levels of immune modulating cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor and interleukin (IL)-6, are markedly high, as are levels of other inflammatory proteins, including C-reactive protein (hsCRP). [CRP is a blood protein typically associated with the presence and amount of inflammation in the body.] Additionally, hormones that regulate insulin and hunger levels are higher than levels found in those without sleep apnea.
There is conflicting data about the affect of CPAPs, continuous positive airway pressure breathing devices, on inflammation. Some studies suggest that the devices help lower the number of inflammatory molecules circulating in the body, other studies suggest that using a CPAP increases inflammation.
Successfully battling disease, and healing , is determined by inflammatory immune cells and the types and ratios of cytokines they generate. Restoring balance, immune homeostasis, to the body, helps the body stay healthy, and recover rapidly when in ill health.
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