Arterial stiffness, a marker for cardiovascular risk, is increased in patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). The specific influence of both on arterial stiffness during sleep is unknown. Nocturnal arterial stiffness (Pulse Propagation Time (PPT) of the finger pulse wave) was calculated in 142 individuals evaluated for sleep apnea: 27 COPD patients (64.7 ± 11y, 31.2 ± 8 kg/m2), 72 patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD group, 58.7 ± 13y, 33.6 ± 6 kg/m2) and 43 healthy controls (HC group 49.3 ± 12y, 27.6 ± 3 kg/m2). Sleep stage related PPT changes were assessed in a subsample of COPD patients and matched controls (n = 12/12). Arterial stiffness during sleep was increased in COPD patients (i.e. shortened PPT) compared to healthy controls (158.2 ± 31 vs. 173.2 ± 38 ms, p = 0.075) and to patients with CVD (161.4 ± 41 ms). Arterial stiffening was particular strong during REM sleep (145.9 ± 28 vs. 172.4 ± 43 ms, COPD vs. HC, p = 0.003). In COPD, time SaO2 < 90% was associated with reduced arterial stiffness (Beta +1.7 ms (1.1-2.3)/10 min, p < 0.001). Sleep apnea did not affect PPT. In COPD, but not in matched controls, arterial stiffness increased from wakefulness to REM-sleep (ΔPPT-8.9 ± 10% in COPD and 3.7 ± 12% in matched controls, p = 0.021). Moreover, REM-sleep related arterial stiffening was correlated with elevated daytime blood pressure (r = -0.92, p < 0.001) and increased myocardial oxygen consumption (r = -0.88, p < 0.01). Hypoxia and REM sleep modulate arterial stiffness. In contrast to healthy controls, REM sleep imposes a vascular load in COPD patients independent of sleep apnea indices, intermittent and sustained hypoxia. The link between REM-sleep, vascular stiffness and daytime cardiovascular function suggests that REM-sleep plays a role for increased cardiovascular morbidity of COPD patients.
Keywords: COPD; REM sleep; arterial stiffness; blood pressure; cardiovascular risk; nocturnal hypoxia.