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Obstructive Sleep Apnea Increases COVID-19 Severity

written by / May 31, 2021
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Increases COVID-19 Severity

A new study published in BMJ Open Respiratory Research revealed that Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) was an independent risk factor for developing a severe case of COVID-19 that requires hospitalization.

But, before we get ahead of ourselves, what is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Well, simply put, sleep apnea is a phenomenon that occurs during sleep where the sleeper stops breathing anywhere from 20 seconds to 3 minutes. Moreover, an estimated 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea — hence why it’s qualified as a “hidden epidemic.”

In addition, if breathing stops due to the blockage of air passageways, the apnea is characterized as obstructive.

Yet, how exactly does OSA increase the severity of COVID-19? 

First of all, OSA was present in over 20% of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the study. Secondly, those with OSA and severe COVID-19 were over twice as likely to be hospitalized compared to other patients with severe COVID-19. Thirdly, OSA mostly affects overweight people, older adults, and men, which all fit the COVID-19 risk group as well.

OSA patients were represented in larger numbers both among the hospitalized and among those in need of more extended inpatient care.

The exact reasons behind this occurrence remain unknown. Yet, the correlation between sleep quality and immunity is the primary suspect. 

Newer studies even show that poor sleep might affect COVID-19 vaccine efficacy. 

As such, you may want to rethink your attitude towards treating your sleep apnea.

For example, you can try different methods such as proning or even using a CPAP machine to prevent a potential trip to the COVID-19 hospital wing

At any rate, the question remains: will CPAP users (namely, severe OSA patients), just like those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), be prioritized for vaccination?

Marija Kovachevska is a content writer at, Biochemist and Activist. After obtaining her BSc in Biochemistry and Physiology she changed her microscope for content research tools and continued researching in the fields of Medicine, Biology, and Communication. Her insatiable curiosity flare drove her to become a “content scientist writer” as she likes to say. Reality fascinates her and facts and statistics are a must-have feature in her articles. Fluent in English and French, she is a volunteer and communication associate for several non-profit organizations. French culture and handcrafting are her passion, but in her free time, she indulges in long walks and traveling, or as she likes to say “experiencing the inexperienced.”

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