Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder, affecting mainly overweight adults over the age of 40. Loud, persistent snoring is the most common symptom, which is interspersed by pauses or gaps – these are the apnoeas, which literally mean “without breath”. Apnoeas signal the interruption of breathing, and are usually followed by choking or gasping as the person struggles for air. Although many people with OSA are unaware of the difficulty they have had breathing, their sleeping partners are not!
OSA deprives tissues and cells in the body of oxygen for short periods of time, leading to oxidative stress and low-grade inflammation. Oxygen deprivation has many repercussions – OSA is linked with a higher risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, and stroke. Researchers from the Institute of Respiratory Diseases at the University of Foggia in Italy decided to find out just how much this oxidative stress affects our cells. They were particularly interested in any changes to mitochondrial DNA, which is much more susceptible to oxidative damage than nuclear DNA and has a limited capacity to repair itself.
Their results showed that OSA inflicts serious damage at the most fundamental level. Mitochondrial DNA showed increased damage that appeared to correlate with oxidative stress levels. Oxygen deprivation or sleep fragmentation was also suggested as alternative contributors. Although difficult to pinpoint the exact cause, OSA causes serious damage and this report highlights the importance of treating this prevalent condition.
Lacedonia D, Carpagnano GE, Crisetti E, et al. Mitochondrial DNA alteration in obstructive sleep apnea. Respir Res. 2015 Apr 7;16(1):47.
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