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CPAP Treatment for Sleep Apnea Fights Fatigue

Study Shows People With Obstructive Sleep Apnea Have More Energy After CPAP Treatment
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

happy middle-aged man

Jan. 3, 2011 -- A common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may have the added benefits of fighting fatigue and increasing energy as well as helping people sleep better.

A new study shows that use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) decreased fatigue and increased energy in people with the sleep-related breathing disorder after only a few weeks of treatment.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that occurs when a person has pauses in their breathing because of obstruction of airflow. For example, when muscles relax during sleep it can cause soft tissue in the back of the throat to collapse and temporarily block the upper airway.

Obstructive sleep apnea is usually associated with loud snoring and less restful sleep. As a result, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and lack of energy are frequent complaints among people with OSA.

Researchers say the treatment of choice for obstructive sleep apnea is CPAP, which involves wearing a mask that delivers a forceful stream of air during sleep. CPAP has been shown to increase oxygen flow during sleep, reduce the frequency of airway blockages, and decrease daytime sleepiness.

CPAP: Fatigue Fighter

In the study, published in Sleep, researchers looked at the effects of treatment with CPAP or a dummy treatment in 59 adults with obstructive sleep apnea on self-reported measures of fatigue and energy.

The results showed CPAP significantly reduced the average fatigue score from 8.8 on a scale of one to 10 -- with 10 being highly fatigued --  to -0.1 after three weeks of treatment. Energy levels also increased significantly in the real CPAP group compared to the dummy treatment group.

"These results are important, as they highlight that patients who comply with CPAP therapy can find relief from fatigue and experience increases in energy and vigor after a relatively short treatment period,” researcher Lianne Tomfohr, graduate research assistant in the joint doctoral program at San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego, says in a news release.

Researchers say CPAP was especially beneficial in increasing energy and reducing fatigue in people who reported excessive levels of fatigue or sleepiness before treatment.

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