Circadian rhythms in blood pressure, heart rate, hormones, and on polysomnographic parameters in severe obstructive sleep apnea syndrome patients: effect of continuous positive airway pressure

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Abstract

Introduction

Seventeen male patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS; apnea–hypopnea index>30/h) were monitored by polysomnography in the sleep lab before and after about 8 weeks of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Twelve of the patients were hypertensive, but treated by antihypertensive drugs. The circadian rhythms in blood pressure (BP) and heart rate were determined by ambulatory BP monitoring and motor activity was monitored by a motion logger. As the sympathetic tone is reported to be increased in sleep apnea, the circadian rhythm in plasma norepinephrine was studied in parallel and as a marker rhythm of the biological clock plasma melatonin was determined around the clock by radioimmunoassay.

Results

Level and rhythm in BP and heart rate were not significantly affected by CPAP in this group of patients, but the number of dippers increased after CPAP intervention. The high 24 h plasma values of norepinephrine were lowered by CPAP therapy. In contrast, melatonin values were disturbed in OSAS patients with a loss in nocturnal increase; this pattern was not corrected by CPAP. Sleep functions (deep sleep, slow wave sleep, rapid eye movement sleep, arousal index, apnea–hypopnea index, desaturation index) were disturbed in OSAS patients as monitored by polysomnography and were significantly improved by CPAP therapy.

Conclusion

The study indicates that BP-controlled hypertensive patients with OSAS can additionally benefit from CPAP therapy by increasing the number of dippers. This treatment significantly improved sleep functions and OSAS symptoms. In addition, arousal movements at night were also reduced and the high sympathetic tone during early morning hours was also decreased. However, there is still an indication of a disturbed function of the biological clock as the loss in the rhythm in plasma melatonin was not corrected by CPAP.

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