A recent study by Finnish scientists investigated differences between sleep disruptions caused by varying respiratory events and sleep apnea severity.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common breathing disorder causing excessive daytime sleepiness and increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and stroke. OSA is characterized by repetitive complete (apnea) or partial (hypopnea) obstructions of the upper airways during sleep, which often lead to blood oxygen desaturations and arousals from sleep. Arousals constantly interrupt the normal sleep pattern, which then results in inadequate sleep and shortened sleep times.

The quality of sleep (sleep stages and sleep disruptions) can be assessed based on the electroencephalogram (EEG) signal recorded during a polysomnogram. Even though sleep disruptions are identified from overnight recordings to characterize the degree of sleep interruption, this information is seldom utilized when assessing OSA severity. A recent study

In the study, 867 patients with clinical suspicion of OSA were investigated for differences in the high frequency content of EEG signals during respiratory arousals. The differences were studied in the gamma frequency band (30–40 Hz) between arousals caused by different respiratory events (obstructive apneas and hypopneas with and without a ≥3% blood oxygen desaturation) and as a function of respiratory event duration (10–20 s, 20–30 s, or >30 s). Arousals were also investigated in different sleep stages, comparing them to 3-second epochs of steady sleep during the corresponding stages.

As opposed to steady sleep, where gamma power decreased towards deeper stages, arousal gamma power increased as the sleep deepened. In addition, arousal gamma power was higher related to obstructive apneas compared to hypopneas and increased related to longer obstructive apneas compared to shorter ones. Furthermore, arousal gamma power was higher in the presence of an oxygen desaturation compared to when a desaturation event was not present.

As elevated EEG gamma activity has previously been associated with wakefulness during night, the results demonstrate that the arousal intensity and, therefore, the magnitude of sleep disruptions and respiratory instability might vary depending on the preceding respiratory event type and severity.

“These findings can bring more insight into respiratory event-related sleep fragmentation and OSA severity assessment,” says lead author, Early Stage Researcher Henna Pitkänen from the University of Eastern Finland.

Sleep Disruptions