Severe sleep apnea tied to severe COVID-19

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The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is higher in people with obstructive sleep apnea and other breathing problems that cause oxygen levels to drop during sleep, researchers say.

They tracked 5,402 adults with these problems and found that roughly a third of them eventually tested posted for the coronavirus. While the chance of being infected did not increase with the severity of their problems, people with higher scores on the “apnea-hypopnia index” – a measure of the severity of their sleep-related breathing problems – had higher odds of needing to be hospitalized or dying from COVID-19, Drs. Cinthya Pena Orbea and Reena Mehra of the Cleveland Clinic and colleagues reported this week in JAMA Network Open.

It is not clear if treatments that improve sleep apnea, such as CPAP machines that push air into patients’ airways during sleep, would also reduce the risk of severe COVID-19, said Pene Orbea and Mehra.

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