Sleep-Disordered Breathing

Continuum (Minneap Minn). 2017 Aug;23(4, Sleep Neurology):1093-1116. doi: 10.1212/01.CON.0000522245.13784.f6.


Purpose of review: Sleep-disordered breathing encompasses a broad spectrum of sleep-related breathing disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea, as well as sleep-related hypoventilation and hypoxemia. Diagnostic criteria have been updated in the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, Third Edition and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Manual for Scoring Sleep and Associated Events. Neurologic providers should have basic knowledge and skills to identify at-risk patients, as these disorders are associated with substantial morbidity, the treatment of which is largely reversible.

Recent findings: OSA is the most common form of sleep-disordered breathing and is highly prevalent and grossly underdiagnosed. Recent studies suggest that prevalence rates in patients with neurologic disorders including epilepsy and stroke exceed general population estimates. The physiologic changes that occur in OSA are vast and involve complex mechanisms that play a role in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders and, although largely unproven, likely impact brain health and disease progression in neurologic patients. A tailored sleep history and examination as well as validated screening instruments are effective in identifying patients with sleep-disordered breathing, although sleep testing is necessary for diagnostic confirmation. While continuous positive airway pressure therapy and other forms of noninvasive positive pressure ventilation remain gold standard treatments, newer therapies, including mandibular advancement, oral appliance devices, and hypoglossal nerve stimulation, have become available. Emerging evidence of the beneficial effects of treatment of sleep-disordered breathing on neurologic outcomes underscores the importance of sleep education and awareness for neurologic providers.

Summary: Sleep-disordered breathing is highly prevalent and grossly underrecognized. The adverse medical and psychosocial consequences of OSA and other sleep-related breathing disorders are considerable. The impact of sleep therapies on highly prevalent neurologic disorders associated with substantial morbidity and health care costs is becoming increasingly recognized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apnea / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Polysomnography / economics
  • Polysomnography / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / therapy*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy*