From links between sleep loss and obesity to sleep apnea therapy and lower blood pressure, research evidence being presented at the American Thoracic Society’s 102nd International Conference (ATS 2006) in San Diego continued to support the importance of healthy sleep and the need to treat sleep disorders.

In a longitudinal study of 68,183 middle-aged women, Sanjay Patel, MD, and his colleagues found that women who slept less gained more weight over the 16 years of the study. When Patel, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, analyzed the data, he found that women who slept 5 hours or less per night weighed 5.4 pounds more at the beginning of the study than those sleeping 7 hours and gained an additional 1.6 pounds over the next 10 years.

The researchers looked at possible confounding factors, such as how much the women exercised and what they ate and found that diet and physical activity did not seem to be  a factor. “We don’t have an answer from this study about why reduced sleep causes weight gain, but there are some possibilities that deserve further study,” Patel said.

In another study, Daniel Norman, MD, and colleagues found that patients with obstructive sleep apnea who were treated with CPAP significantly reduced their blood pressure. Norman, who is a fellow in pulmonary and critical care at the University of California San Diego Medical Center, took 46 patients with sleep apnea and randomly assigned them to receive either real CPAP therapy, fake CPAP therapy, or nighttime oxygen. After 2 weeks, the patients who received the real CPAP treatment had lower blood pressure than those who received the fake CPAP or the oxygen.

Also presented at the meeting was an abstract for a pilot study on CPAP treatment for ischemic stroke and poster presentations on patient reported outcomes of sleep and fatigue in asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), prevalence of sleep apnea in patients with severe pneumonia, sleep disorders and heart disease, and many other topics.

In total, ATS drew more than 15,000 attendees and featured more than 5,000 research presentations. For more information about the studies presented at ATS 2006, please visit the ATS online at