Nasal Obstruction as a Risk Factor for Sleep-Disordered Breathing. The University of Wisconsin Sleep and Respiratory Research Group

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1997 Feb;99(2):S757-62. doi: 10.1016/s0091-6749(97)70124-6.


Nasal obstruction frequently has been associated with sleep-disordered breathing as a potential etiologic factor. Nasal obstruction results in pathologic changes in airflow velocity and resistance. Experimentally produced nasal obstruction increases resistance and leads to sleep-disordered breathing events, including apnea, hypopnea, and snoring. Clinical research examining the correlation between nasal obstruction and sleep-disordered breathing is limited, especially in regard to patients with conditions that increase nasal resistance, such as rhinitis and sinusitis. To further identify risk factors for sleep-disordered breathing, the role of chronic and acute nasal congestion was investigated in a population-based sample. Data on nasal congestion history and sleep problems were obtained by questionnaire (n = 4927) and by objective inlaboratory measurement (n = 911). Participants who often or almost always experienced nighttime symptoms of rhinitis (5 or more nights a month) were significantly (p < 0.0001) more likely to report habitual snoring (3 to 7 nights a week), chronic excessive daytime sleepiness, or chronic nonrestorative sleep than were those who rarely or never had symptoms. Habitual snorers had significantly (p < 0.02) lower air flow than nonsnorers, although a linear relation between decreased airflow and sleep-disordered breathing severity did not exist. Participants who reported nasal congestion due to allergy were 1.8 times more likely to have moderate to severe sleep-disordered breathing than were those without nasal congestion due to allergy. Men and women with nasal obstruction, especially chronic nighttime symptoms of rhinitis, are significantly more likely to be habitual snorers, and a proportion also may have frequent episodes of apnea and hypopnea, indicative of severe sleep-disordered breathing. Because allergic rhinitis is a common cause of nasal obstruction and it is a modifiable risk factor, further study of this association is warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasal Obstruction / epidemiology
  • Nasal Obstruction / physiopathology*
  • Prevalence
  • Rhinitis / complications
  • Rhinitis / epidemiology
  • Rhinitis / physiopathology
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / complications
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / epidemiology
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / physiopathology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / etiology*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications
  • Snoring / complications
  • Snoring / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires