Sleep apnea may be a risk factor for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to research published in Sleep Medicine and Disorders International Journal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused over 1.29 million deaths and there have been more than 52.48 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Sleep apnea causes breaks in breathing during sleep and is diagnosed by nocturnal polysomnography. 

Investigators examined 28 patients admitted to Turku University Hospital in Southwest Finland for COVID-19 by May 3, 2020. The region, which is where the study was conducted, saw 278 positive test results. 

According to the study, 29% of the patients admitted to the hospital had been diagnosed with sleep apnea, whereas only 3.1% of the general population of Southwest Finland are receiving treatment for sleep apnea. Although the study population is small, the share of sleep apnea patients was high. 

"The finding was strong enough to justify the question of sleep apnea as a risk factor for COVID-19. In principle, a patient may need hospital care when they have a COVID-19 infection if they also have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea anticipates a severe form of COVID-19,” said first author Thijs Feuth, MD, in a press release. 

Although obesity is already a known risk factor for COVID-19, it cannot explain the high rate of sleep apnea among COVID-19 patients alone, according to the study. Other studies have confirmed the link between COVID-19 and sleep apnea. 

REFERENCE:

Sleep apnea may be risk factor for COVID-19 [News Release] November 13, 2020; Turku, Finalnd. Accessed November 16, 2020. https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-11/uot-sam111320.php