A new study found that adults with obstructive sleep apnea who did not use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy were more likely to be hospitalized with influenza.

The study, conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, showed that 61% of patients who either were not prescribed CPAP to treat their sleep apnea or were not adherent to their CPAP treatment were hospitalized with influenza, compared with 24% of patients who were adherent to CPAP therapy. Further, statistical analysis found that the patients who were non-adherent to CPAP were nearly 5 times more likely to be hospitalized with a flu infection, despite having a higher rate of influenza vaccination, according to the study.

“Our study would suggest that among patients with obstructive sleep apnea, those who use CPAP are less likely to be hospitalized because of an influenza infection than those who do not use CPAP,” said study coinvestigator Glen Greenough, MD, associate professor of medicine, psychiatry and neurology at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, in a press release.

For the 30 million adults in the United States who have sleep apnea, CPAP is a common treatment, using mild levels of air pressure through a mask to keep their throat open during sleep.

The study authors examined the medical records of 53 patients who had sleep apnea and a confirmed case of influenza between 2016 and 2018. The 28 patients categorized as non-adherent to CPAP treatment had a mean age of 63 years and were 54% male. Further, the 25 CPAP-adherent patients had a mean age of approximately 60 years and were 52% male. CPAP use was assessed by data download, with adherence defined as use of at least 4 hours per night for at least 70% of nights, according to the study.

In addition, the study results revealed that 75% of non-adherent patients received an influenza vaccine compared with 56% of regular CPAP users. The study authors suggest that poor sleep could have negatively affected non-adherent patients’ response to the vaccine.

Untreated sleep apnea is associated with flu hospitalization. AASM. https://aasm.org/untreated-sleep-apnea-is-associated-with-flu-hospitalization/. Published October 19, 2020. Accessed November 5, 2020.