Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 02:35 pm

New research is uncovering how important sleep is in terms of ageing – and for people with obstructive sleep apnoea, the news is not good…

“Ageing has become the next frontier in medicine,” says sleep specialist David Gozal, MD, chair of the Department of Child Health at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

Chronological age – the passing of time one spends on this planet – cannot be reversed, Gozal says. However, biological age – one’s health relative to that of one’s peers – can be turned back.

Healthy lifestyle habits contribute to ‘ageing well’, meaning that one’s biological age is younger than one’s chronological age. And sleep is a major factor in how well one ages.

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Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome causes premature ageing and disease

In a recent study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, researchers examined the link between obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) and inflammation and the ensuing damage caused to organs.

They concluded that OSAS promotes a persistent low-intensity inflammatory state.

Gozal and Leila Kheirandish-Gozal, MD, director of the MU School of Medicine’s Child Health Research Institute, make the case that sleep-disordered breathing such as OSAS should be viewed as a low-grade chronic inflammatory disease. That’s because OSAS often leads to altered lung ventilation and low concentrations of oxygen in the blood, which can trigger inflammation.

How inflammation negatively affects the body

Inflammation is associated with changes in neuro-cognition, mood, behaviour, cardiovascular function and metabolism, as well as a host of related conditions including chronic kidney disease, erectile dysfunction, eye disease and cancer.

In their study, Kheirandish-Gozal and Gozal performed an intensive review on previous studies, focusing on two specific pro-inflammatory cytokines, or substances secreted by certain cells in the immune system.

By comparing and contrasting the ways that these cytokines affect cells, the researchers were able to glean a better understanding of the various mechanisms of inflammation. This, in turn, could eventually lead to better, more precise treatments, Gozal said.

“We would like to be very precise in how we treat sleep apnoea,” Gozal said.

Improving the sleep apnoea treatments

Currently, the most common treatments for OSAS are the surgical removal of tonsil and adenoid tissues for children and the use of CPAP machines for adults.

However, more precise treatments might include vitamin C or plant-derived antioxidants to reverse the damage caused by the specific inflammatory processes and protect the body from future damage.

Gozal is hopeful that future studies will help researchers better understand the biomarkers that point to a person’s unique vulnerabilities to the nuances of inflammation and, in turn, improved treatments to correct and prevent cellular damage.

According to Gozal, these treatments could help reverse patients’ biological ages, leading to longer, healthier lives.

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia via

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