Sleep Apnea Increases Risk of Pneumonia

Man Sleeping and SnoringIndividuals who suffer from sleep apnea, a chronic disorder that causes disrupted sleep, appear to have a higher risk of pneumonia, suggests a new study from Taiwan as published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 18 million in the United States alone suffer from the disorder. However, the condition often goes undiagnosed. Untreated sleep apnea increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes, heart failure, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), and the chance of having work-related or driving accidents.

The most common form of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, is characterized by disturbed sleep caused by soft tissue obstructing the upper airway.

Previous studies have investigated a link between sleep apnea and pneumonia. The present study is the largest to explore the risk of pneumonia among adults with the sleep disorder.

Between January 2000 and December 2010, researchers from the Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan followed over 34,000 patients from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database. The researchers matched nearly 7,000 patients with sleep apnea with over 27,000 individuals without the disorder.

According to the study, the patients with sleep apnea had a 1.20-fold increase in pneumonia compared to the participants without the disorder; 9.36 percent developed pneumonia in the apnea group compared to 7.77 percent in the control group.


The researchers also noted that the individuals who developed pneumonia tended to be older and had more additional illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and dementia.

The researchers conclude that sleep apnea appears to be an “independent risk factor for incident pneumonia.” Furthermore, individuals with more severe sleep apnea appear to have a higher risk of developing pneumonia compared to individuals with milder forms of the disorder.

Additional research is still needed on the cause of the link between sleep apnea and an increased risk of pneumonia. However, one hypothesis is that individuals with the sleep disorder are more likely to aspirate liquid from the throat into the lungs.



Pneumonia risk higher in people with sleep apnea:
Sleep apnea and risk of pneumonia: a nationwide population-based study:

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Written by Heather

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, homemaker, homeschooler, and mother.

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