The impact of obesity on oxygen desaturation during sleep-disordered breathing

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2009 Oct 15;180(8):788-93. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200905-0773OC. Epub 2009 Jul 30.


Rationale: Obesity increases the risk and severity of sleep-disordered breathing. The degree to which excess body weight contributes to blood oxygen desaturation during hypopneic and apneic events has not been comprehensively characterized.

Objectives: To quantify the association between excess body weight and oxygen desaturation during sleep-disordered breathing.

Methods: A total of 750 adult participants in the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study were assessed for body mass index (BMI) (kg/m(2)) and sleep-disordered breathing. The amount of Sa(O(2)), duration, and other characteristics of 37,473 observed breathing events were measured during polysomnography studies. A mixed-effects linear regression model estimated the association of blood oxygen desaturation with participant-level characteristics, including BMI, gender, and age, and event-level characteristics, including baseline Sa(O(2)), change in Vt, event duration, sleep state, and body position.

Measurements and main results: BMI was positively associated with oxygen desaturation severity independent of age, gender, sleeping position, baseline Sa(O(2)), and event duration. BMI interacted with sleep state such that BMI predicted greater desaturation in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep than in non-REM sleep. Each increment of 10 kg/m(2) BMI predicted a 1.0% (SE, 0.2%) greater mean blood oxygen desaturation for persons in REM sleep experiencing hypopnea events associated with 80% Vt reductions.

Conclusions: Excess body weight is an important predictor of the severity of blood oxygen desaturation during apnea and hypopnea events, potentially exacerbating the impact of sleep-disordered breathing in obese patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Oximetry
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / complications*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology*