Inflammation in sleep apnea: an update

Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2015 Mar;16(1):25-34. doi: 10.1007/s11154-014-9304-x.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common disorder associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD). One theory to explain this relationship proposes that OSA can induce systemic inflammation, thereby inducing CVD. This theory is based on the premise that obesity is a pro-inflammatory state, and that physiological derangements during sleep in subjects with OSA further aggravate inflammation. In support of this theory, some clinical studies have shown elevated inflammatory biomarkers in OSA subjects, or improvement in these markers following treatment of OSA. However, the data are inconsistent and often confounded by the effects of comorbid obesity. Animal models of OSA have been developed, which involve exposure of rodents or cells to intermittent hypoxia, a hallmark feature of OSA. Several of these experiments demonstrate that intermittent hypoxia can stimulate inflammatory pathways and lead to cardiovascular or metabolic pathology. In this review, we review relationships between OSA and inflammation, with particular attention to studies published within the last year.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology