Monday, August 23, 2010

Thunderstorms and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

When the sky opens up and thunder and lightning come crashing down your first priority should be seeking shelter in a safe place. Worry about your CPAP machine or oral appliance later. There’s little evidence strong storms will have a noticeable effect on sleep-related breathing.

The latest newsletter from the Harvard Medical School warned readers about sleep apnea during thunderstorms. The warning is exaggerated to say the least based on the mixed findings of the study cited in the article.

Researchers at University of Washington looked at how weather-related decreases in barometric pressure affected the severity of sleep apnea. Results show only one of three measures related to sleep apnea significantly changed because of the weather.

Large drops in environmental air pressure can cause sleep apnea to worsen. Another study found sleep apnea worsened at high altitudes, where the pressure is lower.

It’s difficult to say that severe thunderstorms won’t influence sleep apnea, but the change probably won’t be great. If you’ve already been diagnosed with sleep apnea, continue to use your CPAP or oral appliance. Otherwise worry about how air pressure causes obstructed breathing only if you’re moving to Denver and you think you have the symptoms of sleep apnea.

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