Cartoon gut bacteria sleeping

How Gut Bacteria May Be Linked to Sleep Apnea

At 49 years old, I have successfully managed my sleep apnea for over a decade using a CPAP machine – I’ve tried exercise, weight loss, and a variety of other things, but the reality is, CPAP is always the thing that works best for me.

Today I was looking at an interesting new study from China published in October this year that looks at the gut microbiome of sleep apnea sufferers.

My interest in the link between gut bacteria and sleep apnea isn’t new. As a teenager diagnosed with a stomach ulcer, which later turned out to be caused by H. Pylori bacteria, I’ve always been intrigued by how our gut biome influences our overall health, including sleep disorders.

Key Takeaways
  • Imbalances in gut bacteria, particularly in the Ruminococcaceae and Subdoligranulum families, may be linked to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), with the condition also potentially altering the gut microbiome
  • OSA may affect body metabolites like fatty and bile acids, suggesting new treatment options including probiotics and beneficial fats to manage OSA-related complications
  • A diverse gut microbiome, including microbes such as Eggerthella and those in the Eubacterium xylanophilum group, might protect against OSA, indicating a complex gut-sleep relationship that could lead to innovative treatments

Understanding the Complexities of Sleep Apnea Beyond Breathing Issues

The ripple effects of sleep apnea are far-reaching, touching the very core of our wellbeing. Hearts are strained, minds become foggy, and the risk of developing diabetes looms larger. It’s a condition that affects not just you, but also your loved ones, who often lie awake struggling to sleep themselves but concerned about your constant gasping and choking.

Researchers have started looking to our internal ecosystems, exploring the idea that the gut—with its vast array of bacteria—might hold clues or a connection to sleep apnea.

It’s a fascinating hypothesis: could the millions of microbes residing in our digestive tracts influence the rhythms of our breathing as we sleep?

I struggle with both, sleep issues caused by sleep apnea and also digestive and gut issues, so the idea that there is some kind of linkage is quite compelling for me.

New Scientific Perspectives on the Gut Bacteria-Sleep Apnea Connection

Scientists in China have been studying the connection between the tiny organisms living in our guts and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The study found that when there’s an imbalance in these gut organisms, like having too much or too little of certain types like Clostridia, Ruminococcus, and Faecalibacterium, it might be linked to getting OSA. They saw that some specific types of bacteria, like Genus_Ruminococcaceae (UCG009) and genus_Subdoligranulum, might make it more likely for a person to have this sleep issue.

The research also looked at how metabolites created in our body might also play a role in OSA. The study mentions substances like 3-dehydrocarnitine, epiandrosterone sulfate, and leucine, which could be risk factors for developing OSA.

The scientists used a form of reverse causation analysis called, reverse Mendelian randomization, to show that having OSA might lead to changes in six types of gut organisms.
Surviving Sleep Apnea

They also studied how not getting enough oxygen during sleep, which happens in OSA, can change the number of certain gut organisms like Clostridium, Lactococcus, and Bifidobacterium, as well as affect substances like free fatty acids and bile acids.

These discoveries show a complicated link between the tiny organisms in our guts, how our body handles fats, and sleep apnea. This could lead to new ways to help treat high blood pressure that’s related to OSA by using things like good bacteria (probiotics) and certain types of fats that are good for your gut.

Balancing Act: The Role of Microbes in Risk and Protection Against Sleep Apnea

While the presence of certain types of these microbes, like Subdoligranulum and those from the Ruminococcaceae family, might increase the chance of having sleep apnea the research showed that other other gut bacteria might actually help protect us from developing sleep apnea.

For example, microbes such as Eggerthella and a group of Eubacterium called the xylanophilum group are less common in people with OSA. This indicates that having a diversity of bacteria in our gut might be beneficial and could possibly reduce the risk of sleep interruptions caused by sleep apnea.

A New Horizon in Sleep Apnea Research

I’m not a microbiologist or a sleep specialist, but this all seems rather interesting to me. There’s obviously a fairly complex set of relationships going on in our stomach, but in layman’s terms understanding that there’s a potential link between my gut health and my sleep apnea gets me thinking about potential opportunities to optimize my health overall.

One of the things that always keeps me excited about sleep apnea is how the research is ongoing – it’s a big field and there is a lot of work being done to help people like us who suffer from it. I think that this emerging link between gut microbes and sleep apnea is a significant development.

With more research and future studies, we may see some exciting and innovative new therapies developed that offer hope for better sleep and overall health. I guess for me, that’s all I’m looking for – can science and research find ways to treat both of these afflictions and improve my quality of life.

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As a long term Sleep Apnea sufferer, Sean has researched the topic extensively and tried several different therapies and lifestyle changes with varying degrees of success. His efforts now are focused on helping people get diagnosed early and begin treating their Sleep Apnea to avoid long-term health impacts.

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