Sleep Disorders

04 January 2011

Common sleep apnoea therapy relieves fatigue

Comparison of CPAP device with sham treatment indicates device is effective.


Comparison of CPAP device with sham treatment indicates device is effective.

Treatment with a common therapy helped obstructive sleep apnoea patients gain more energy and become less fatigued in just three weeks and the gains appeared to be the result of more than just a placebo effect, a new study shows. 

People with sleep apnoea often unconsciously wake up dozens of times during the night when their airways become blocked. The condition can cause heavy snoring, daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

Patients with the condition often undergo sleep tests and are then prescribed continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. The treatment entails wearing a mask during sleep that keeps their airwaves open by sending a steady stream of air down their throats. 

The study

In the new study, published in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Sleep, 59 patients with an average age of 48 were assigned to receive treatment with either a CPAP device or a placebo (sham) device. The study participants were trained on how to use the device they were assigned and told to bring it home and use it every night for three weeks. The patients completed questionnaires on their levels of fatigue and daytime sleepiness both before and after the study period. 

According to the results, after the three-week treatment period, participants receiving CPAP therapy were no longer experiencing clinically significant levels of fatigue.

"This was one of the first double-blind studies of the effects of CPAP on fatigue," study author Lianne Tomfohr, a graduate research assistant in the joint doctoral program at San Diego State University and the University of California at San Diego, said in a news release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. 

"These results are important, as they highlight that patients who comply with CPAP therapy can find relief from fatigue and experience increases in energy and vigour after a relatively short treatment period," Tomfohr added.

An estimated 2% to 4% of adults have sleep apnoea, according to background information from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (HealthDay News/ January 2011) 

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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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