A common sleep disorder appears to put COVID-19 patients at higher risk for critical illness, a new study finds.
Using Finnish national databases, researchers found that while the rates of infection with the new coronavirus were the same for people with and without obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), among people who did become infected, those with OSA had a five-fold higher risk of hospitalization.
When people with OSA are asleep, their breathing stops briefly and then restarts, often multiple times during the night.
OSA is associated with health problems like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, but was linked with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 even after researchers took all these other factors into account.
The study cannot prove that OSA caused the more severe outcomes. But in a paper posted on medRxiv ahead of peer review, researchers advise doctors evaluating patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infection to recognize that the sleep disorder is a risk factor for severe COVID-19.