Positive airway pressure (PAP) is the preferred treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), but adherence is low. Educational or ongoing supportive intervention improves the number of PAP adherent patients from the 50% to the 70% range. A common side effect of PAP is increased awakenings. This prospective trial examined baseline polysomnographically derived sleep efficiency and arousal index in PAP adherent and nonadherent patients, and in patients needing sedating medicines to attain PAP adherence versus those who did not need such medicines. Patients with OSA were titrated on PAP during a polysomnography or treated with autotitrating PAP, followed by educational and supportive interventions. Patients with PAP related awakenings (patients describing waking up and taking PAP off in the middle of the night) or difficulty tolerating PAP were additionally treated with medicines that suppress arousals/awakenings (trazodone, mirtazapine, doxepin). A total of 120 of 151 (79%) new patients were ≥70% PAP adherent over a continuous 30-day period, typically within the first 90 days of starting PAP, without sedating medicines. Nineteen of the remaining patients were treated with medicines that suppress arousals and awakenings, and 16 became adherent, resulting in 136 (90%) of 151 new patients achieving adherence. There were no differences in baseline sleep efficiency or arousal index, between adherent and nonadherent patients, as well as between patients who needed sedating medicines for PAP adherence and those who did not. Adding medicines that suppress arousals and awakenings for patients having trouble tolerating PAP, increases the number of patients who are PAP adherent. The need for such medicines seems to be related to the PAP side effect of increased awakenings rather than baseline impaired sleep.
Keywords: adherence; arousal index; continuous positive airway pressure; obstructive sleep apnea; polysomography; positive airway pressure; sleep efficiency.