The new study, which included 195 people with MS, involved completing an in-depth sleep questionnaire and undergoing an assessment that measured sleep and fatigue factors in the patients, such as daytime sleepiness, insomnia, fatigue severity and sleep apnea. The results of the questionnaire revealed a strong correlation with sleep apnea and MS, with one-fifth of the patients found to have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, and more than half found to have an elevated risk for the condition. Additionally, researchers were also able to surmise that the sleep apnea risk presented as a significant predictor of fatigue severity.
Sleep apnea occurs when airflow periodically stops during sleep as a result of muscles relaxing in the throat, wherein soft tissues collapse and briefly obstruct the upper airway. The most common symptom of the condition is loud snoring, however, in Multiple Sclerosis patients, the new study suggests that sleep apnea is so closely associated with fatigue that medical practitioners should begin to check for sleep problems, according to study author Dr. Tiffany Braley, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Michigan Multiple Sclerosis and Sleep Disorders Centers.
AASM president Dr. M. Safwan Badr seconded Dr. Braley’s recommendations in a recent news release, stating, “Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic illness that can have a destructive impact on your health and quality of life,” and MS patients at high risk for sleep apnea should undergo a comprehensive sleep evaluation.
The study on MS and sleep apnea appears in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, an AASM publication.
About 400,000 people in the United States have MS, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Up to 7 percent of men and 5 percent of women have sleep apnea, according to the AASM.
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