From the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been clear that individuals with certain underlying health problems are at a greater risk of severe outcomes from the virus.
Now, a new study has determined that individuals with obstructive sleep apnea are among those who should be even more cautious regarding COVID-19. Even when accounting for other health factors, it has now become clear that obstructive sleep apnea makes the current pandemic an even greater risk for many.
What Did the Study Say?The study by the University of Warwick was actually composed of a systematic review of 18 studies that observed the relationship between COVID-19 and sleep apnea patients. Some of the studies accounted for the risk of death, while others related to other aspects of diagnosis and management.
The findings made it clear that patients with obstructive sleep apnea are at a much greater risk for severe complications than the general population, especially if they have other underlying conditions, such as diabetes. In fact, one of the studies found that diabetes patients who also had sleep apnea were 2.8 times as likely to die from COVID-19 within a week of their hospital admission as those without sleep apnea.
According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Michelle Miller, the increased risk for sleep apnea patients comes from the fact that obstructive sleep apnea and COVID-19 affect similar systems. “It is likely that COVID-19 increases oxidative stress and inflammation and has effects on the bradykinin pathways, all of which are also affected in obstructive sleep apnea patients. When you have individuals in which these mechanisms are already affected, it wouldn't be surprising that COVID-19 affects them more strongly.”
Because of their findings, the researchers are now recommending that obstructive sleep apnea be looked at as a risk factor for more severe COVID-19 outcomes — including a higher risk of death.
What Precautions Should Sleep Apnea Patients Take?
For sleep apnea patients, the recommendations are twofold. As Dr. Miller explained, “Make sure you are compliant with your treatment and take as many precautions as you can to reduce your risk, such as wearing a mask, social distancing and getting tested as soon as you notice any symptoms. Now more than ever is the time to follow your treatment plan as diligently as possible.”
Using a CPAP machine is vital because it prevents the interruptions to breathing that take place during the night. As a result, the inflammation and oxidative stress that would occur as a result of sleep apnea are greatly reduced. Eliminating these underlying issues means that controlling your obstructive sleep apnea could help reduce the risk for more harmful outcomes if you contracted COVID-19.
Of course, taking steps to decrease your risk of exposure to COVID-19 should also be a top priority. Because of their higher risk, those diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea should try to avoid unnecessary outings whenever possible. Be especially wary of situations where you would come into close contact with large groups of people.
When you do need to leave the house, wear a mask. Avoid touching your face, and consider bringing hand sanitizer with you. Maintain social distancing while out and about. Wash your hands with soap and water when you get home. These steps may seem simple, but they can make all the difference in protecting you from infection.
What About Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea?
The study noted that part of the problem with sleep apnea and COVID-19 is that the vast majority of obstructive sleep apnea patients have not received a diagnosis. If you suspect that you might have sleep apnea, you should schedule testing to determine if you need CPAP treatment. Fortunately, most people can now be tested at home, allowing you to maintain social distancing.
Pay attention to symptoms that could indicate you have obstructive sleep apnea. For example, it is common for spouses to complain of a bed partner who snores or makes gasping or choking noises during the night. You may also find yourself feeling fatigued and irritable each day, even after getting what seemed like a full night’s rest.
Men, those with a family history of sleep apnea, individuals who are overweight or have a large neck circumference, and people over the age of 40 are also generally at a higher risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.
If you or your spouse suspect that you may have obstructive sleep apnea, schedule a test as soon as possible. The sooner you begin CPAP therapy, the better you will sleep — and the better prepared you will be to take necessary precautions against COVID-19.
Staying Safe During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely disrupted our normal routines as we try to stay safe and slow the spread. For many, these disruptions also affect their ability to get necessary medical equipment and treatment.
Help Medical Supplies is here for you. Not only do we offer a wide range of discounted CPAP machines from leading brands like Philips Respironics and ResMed, but we are also currently selling materials to help you stay safe during COVID-19. Packages like our N95 Personal Protection Kit will give you peace of mind as you protect yourself and others when you need to leave the house.
We know that these are trying times for many, which is why we provide fast shipping and excellent customer service for every order. With our help, you won’t have to worry about running out of the supplies you need for managing sleep apnea or protecting yourself from COVID-19.