People with obstructive sleep apnoea could be at an increased risk of negative outcomes from Covid-19, University of Warwick research has found.
Risks were greatest in patients with diabetes on top of the sleep condition, who one study found were 2.8 times more likely to die on the seventh day after hospital admission.
Study lead author Dr Michelle Miller said sleep apnoea is ‘greatly undiagnosed’ with up to 85% of cases undetected in the UK, where 1.5 million people officially have the condition.
It is hard to determine whether sleep apnoea poses a greater risk for negative outcomes from Covid-19 ‘without a clear picture of how many people have [the condition],’ she added.
She continued: ‘It is likely that Covid-19 increases oxidative stress and inflammation and has effects on the bradykinin pathways, all of which are also affected in obstructive sleep apnoea patients.
‘When you have individuals in which these mechanisms are already affected, it wouldn’t be surprising that Covid-19 affects them more strongly.’
Obstructive sleep apnoea is characterised by a complete or partial blockage of the airways during sleep when the muscles come weaker.
It is commonly diagnosed in people who snore or appear to stop breathing or make choking sounds during sleep. People who are obese are more likely to experience it.
Dr Miller added: ‘This is a group of patients that should be more aware that obstructive sleep apnoea could be an additional risk if they get Covid-19.
‘Make sure you are compliant with your treatment and take as many precautions as you can to reduce your risk, such as wearing a mask, social distancing and getting tested as soon as you notice any symptoms.
‘Now more than ever is the time to follow your treatment plan as diligently as possible,’ she added.