Association of Sodium with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The ELSA-Brasil Study

Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2021 Mar;18(3):502-510. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.202005-498OC.


Rationale: Excessive sodium may have a role in the pathogenesis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) for patients with hypervolemic conditions, but it is unclear whether this is valid for all patients with OSA, including those with no significant comorbidities.Objectives: To test the association of urinary sodium and OSA in a large sample of participants from the ELSA-Brasil (Estudo Longitudinal de Saúde do Adulto-Brasil) Study. In addition, we stratified the analysis participants according to the presence of hypertension.Methods: In this cross-sectional study, OSA was defined by an apnea-hypopnea index ≥15 events/h. A validated 12-hour urine collection as representative of the 24-hour period was obtained from all participants to measure sodium excretion. We performed a logistic regression analysis to test the association of urinary sodium excretion with OSA (dependent variable) adjusting for age, sex, race and income, glomerular filtration rate, diabetes, physical activity, and antihypertensive classes related to sodium excretion. To address potential residual factors that may influence sodium excretion, we performed additional analysis replacing sodium excretion for salt intake (food frequency questionnaire) using the same models.Results: We studied 1,946 participants (age 49 ± 8 yr; 43.4% men). A third of them had OSA. Compared with those with no OSA, participants with OSA presented with higher sodium excretion (1.66 [1.19-2.29] vs. 1.99 [1.44-2.69] g/12 h; P < 0.001). After adjustments for confounding factors, we found no overall significant associations of sodium excretion with OSA (odds ratio [OR], 1.09; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.97-1.23; P = 0.150). Regardless of the OSA status, the sodium excretion was higher in hypertensive than in normotensive participants (1.93 [1.35-2.64] vs. 1.71 [1.22-2.37] g/12 h). An independent association of sodium excretion with OSA was observed in patients with hypertension only (OR, 1.326; 95% CI, 1.067-1.648; P = 0.011), but the interaction of urinary sodium with hypertension was not significant (P = 0.37). The analysis of salt intake revealed consistent findings.Conclusions: The potential role of sodium in the pathogenesis of OSA seems to be modest and limited for those with higher salt intake and, consequently, higher fluid retention such as observed in patients with hypertension.

Keywords: hypertension; pathogenesis; salt; sleep apnea; sodium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension* / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysomnography
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / epidemiology
  • Sodium


  • Sodium