Evidence suggests sleep apnea can alter the gut microbiome and may promote associated co-morbidities, including diabetes, hypertension and cognitive problems.
Researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine and MU Health Care have discovered how OSA-related sleep disturbances affect the gut microbiome in mice and how transplanting those gut bacteria into other mice can cause changes to sleep patterns in the recipient mice.
David Gozal, MD, the Marie M. and Harry L. Smith Endowed Chair of Child Health at the MU School of Medicine, said the study shows the gut microbiome plays a major role in sleep regulation. This ultimately could translate into treatments that target the gut microbiome in humans with OSA.
“By manipulating the gut microbiome, or the byproducts of the gut microbiota, we would be in a position to prevent or at least palliate some of the consequences of sleep apnea,” said Gozal, the lead author of the study. “For example, if we combine continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) with customized probiotics that change the patient’s gut microbiome, we might be able to eliminate some of the tiredness and fatigue and reduce the likelihood of the comorbidities associated with OSA that affect cognition, memory, cardiovascular disease or metabolic dysfunction. If we can do any one of those things, then this is a major movement forward in the way we treat OSA.”