Are opioids associated with sleep apnea? A review of the evidence

Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2009 Apr;13(2):120-6. doi: 10.1007/s11916-009-0021-1.


Chronic opioid use for nonmalignant pain has increased dramatically; nonillicit unintentional deaths have also increased. This article reviews the physiology of breathing, effects of sleep on respiration, effects of opioids on respiration, potential interactions between sleep and opioids on respiration, and current evidence that chronic opioid use is associated with sleep-disordered breathing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena / drug effects
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / chemically induced*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology


  • Analgesics, Opioid