Patients with Untreated Sleep Apnea Are More Likely to Get Flu

Patients with Untreated Sleep Apnea Are More Likely to Get Flu

Adults that are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea and who do not use their CPAP machines are more likely to end up in the hospital due to influenza than others that do use their machines. These findings have been reported in a recent study that was published recently in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

In America there are about 30 million adults that suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This is a condition that causes a sleep disruption, which may negatively impact the functioning of the immune system.

Covid-19 and Sleep Apnea

During these times, as the number of cases continues to grow due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, having more hospitalizations due to flu symptoms puts an added strain on our hospitals. People with sleep apnea can have a higher risk of developing adverse outcomes and infections due to the pandemic. As the flu season makes its way across North America, both patients and hospitals will suffer as more beds are required for individuals that did not adhere to the CPAP therapy protocols.

The researchers of the study examined patient medical records in Lebanon’s Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, which is located in New Hampshire. The records examined were of patients that had an influenza infection and obstructive sleep apnea. The research involved a deep study of the following: 

  • CPAP usage
  • Records of influenza vaccinations
  • Influenza infection confirmations
  • Influenza-related complications and hospitalizations

The researchers looked at the records to compare the results of the patients that were non-adherent to OSA CPAP treatments versus those that were adherent. Anyone that used a CPAP machine a minimum of 70% of nights and for 4 hours at a minimum were defined as being adherent.

After crunching the numbers, the findings showed that those that were non-adherent to the therapy of using a CPAP machine were almost 5 times at a greater risk of ending up in the hospital than those that were adherent.

Both the adherent and non-adherent groups were also studied in regards to flu vaccinations. The group that was non-adherent was 75% more likely to have received the vaccine while the numbers were only at 56% for the adherent group. The researchers of the study mentioned the possibility that a negative vaccine responsiveness may be linked to a poor sleep. It’s also important to note, however, that there was not a significant statistical difference in regards to the amount of vaccinations received.

Importance of Using CPAP Machines

Overall, of the patients with OSA that were non-adherent to or had never been prescribed CPAP therapy, 61% had to be hospitalized due to flu symptoms. When you compare that to only 24% of the adherent patients that were hospitalized for flu, it’s easy to connect the dots. This study clearly shows that people that are not using their CPAP machines regularly are more likely to have a severe reaction to the flu than those that faithfully use their machines.

Benefits of Treating Sleep Apnea with CPAP

There are also several other benefits associated with using a CPAP machine. These machines are known to reverse or prevent any serious health consequences that can develop due to obstructive sleep apnea. Some of the risks involved with sleep apnea include the following:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Car accidents

When you are prescribed a CPAP machine it’s important to use it as often as possible and preferably every night. Sleep apnea has been linked to many different heart problems since you cannot breathe properly if you often stop breathing every night. When using the machine your risk of developing heart disease goes down.

The pauses in breathing reduce the level of blood oxygen and may change your blood pressure. It has been found that people with sleep apnea that leave it untreated have a higher death rate due to heart disease than those that treat it or never had a diagnosis of the condition.


When you use your CPAP machine regularly it can help improve your sensitivity to insulin. Sleep has been linked to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, which are both key factors that affect people that are suffering from type II diabetes. Your risk of getting this form of diabetes goes up when you leave your sleep apnea untreated.


Consistent use of a CPAP machine can lessen the risk of having a stroke. Strokes are a leading cause of long-term disability and death. They occur when there is a rupture or a blockage in a blood vessel that goes to the brain. If you don’t use your sleep apnea machine, your risk of developing a stroke is 2 to 4 times higher.These numbers are concerning and in many cases a stroke may be avoided simply by following the CPAP therapy guideline that your doctor has prescribed.

Car Accidents

Most people that have sleep apnea and don’t treat it suffer from sleepiness during the daytime, which can significantly affect a person’s driving ability. The odds of being involved in a serious motor vehicle accident are higher if you don’t get a restful night’s sleep. It’s important to sleep 7 to 8 hours per day to make sure that when you do get behind the wheel you are well rested and won’t feel as inclined to fall asleep when driving.

As you can see from the information above, it’s vitally important to follow all of your doctor’s instructions regarding CPAP therapy. Not only will it improve your quality of life on a daily basis but it can also save your life.

As more research is done on sleep apnea and its effects on health, it’s expected that new reports will be released that show possible other links to negative health effects from OCA. The time is now to make sure that you are using the machine faithfully, every night, to protect yourself and others around you.

Find out more about sleep apnea and take a look at the CPAP machines that are currently on the market at

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