Researchers are recommending people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) be screened for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) after finding that as many as 1 in 5 people with IBD may also have the sleep disorder. The researchers are now working to develop a screening tool to identify OSA in IBD patients. 

The study is published in Croehn’s and Colitis 360.

“We are developing a novel screening tool for sleep apnea which could help identify and manage OSA in IBD patients who already battle with abdominal pain, along with possible daytime sleepiness, obesity, increasing age, smoking, and other health and well-being problems and long-term risks,” says Flinders University sleep researcher Alex Barnes, MD, from the SA Health Southern Adelaide Local Health Network Gastroenterology Department based at the Flinders Medical Centre, in a release. 

The researchers’ study of 670 IBS patients found moderate to high risk of OSA in about 22.6% of the cohort, many of whom were having trouble with their pain burden, weight, smoking, depression, and at least mild daytime sleepiness.  

“Identification of those with OSA will allow screening for associated cardiovascular complications and commencement of treatments such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP),” says co-author Dr Réme Mountifield, also from the SAHLN Gastroenterology Department and Flinders University Sleep Health group, who collaborated with other SA Health and University of Adelaide experts in the study, in a release. “While the study’s online questionnaire had limitations, overseas research has already confirmed OSA is more common in people with IBD, so a simple screening tool for OSA using typical IBD clinic parameters would be a useful way to start addressing this often undiagnosed problem.”  

IBD is a chronic relapsing-remitting inflammatory condition that is increasing in frequency worldwide. Associated gastrointestinal symptoms often lead to disrupted sleep leading to poor sleep quality, with active IBD associated with elevated TNF-a (tumor necrosis factor-alpha) levels which may influence the course or severity of OSA.  

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