Sleep Apnea and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder and overweight linked to risk of sleep apnea

(RxWiki News) Sleep apnea can lead to health problems and make people sleepy during the day. New research links bipolar disorder to sleep apnea.

About half the people in a study who had bipolar disorder and were overweight were at risk for sleep apnea.

They had enough symptoms, like snoring and daytime sleepiness, to show that they might have sleep apnea. Treating sleep apnea can improve health and quality of life.

"Talk to your doctor about snoring."

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. It occurs when the airway collapses, which causes loud snoring and pauses in breathing.

A study, led by Isabella Soreca, MD, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, looked to see if overweight people with bipolar disorder might be at risk for obstructive sleep apnea.

They enrolled 72 patients with bipolar disorder type 1 who were in remission, meaning their bipolar symptoms were well managed. 

All of the people in the study were overweight by World Health Organization (WHO) standards. WHO bases their standards on Body Mass Index (BMI), which is the ratio of weight to height.

WHO standards are that a BMI over 25 is overweight and a BMI over 30 is obese.

All the patients in Dr. Soreca’s study completed the Berlin Questionnaire, which measure risk of sleep apnea based on symptoms, and had their bipolar symptoms measured.

Berlin questionnaire asks about snoring, daytime sleepiness, body weight and high blood pressure to determine risk of having apnea.

Based on their scores on the questionnaire, 54.1 percent of people in the study were at high risk for sleep apnea.

People who had high risk of apnea also had more symptoms of depression and mania.

The authors said that screening for sleep apnea in bipolar patients is needed.

Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight. It can lead to blood pressure problems and stroke if not treated.

It is also the leading cause of daytime sleepiness, which increases risk of accidents.

Sleep apnea can be treated with mouth pieces, lifestyle changes and, in some cases, surgery. Treatment can help to offset related health risks.

Sleep apnea can only be diagnosed by sleep study, where a trained professional monitors sleep. Dr. Soreca’s study did not confirm that people had sleep apnea only looked for the risk of apnea.

This study was published September 3 in Bipolar Disorders. The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 7, 2012