Each hour while they sleep, more than 26% of all Europeans stop breathing at least five times during ten seconds

(Madrid, 13 October 1999) A medical team at the Txagorritxu Hospital in Vitoria (Spain), led by Dr Joaquín Durán, carried out a detailed study of the sleep patterns of 1050 men and 1098 women over a period of four years.

Out of this population, chosen to be representative of the 200 000 inhabitants of this Basque town in Spain, it was found that 26.2% of the men and 28% of the women stopped breathing more than five times an hour, the threshold of what is considered "abnormal" by the specialists.

The figures are equally impressive when it comes to men and women who stop breathing during their sleep twice as often, i.e. ten times an hour, since no less than 19% of men and 14% of women are affected. "We usually refer to these critical thresholds to define the obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)", says Dr Durán.

To arrive at these results, which were reported Wednesday morning at the 9th annual meeting of the European Respiratory Society (ERS) and which are applicable to Europe as a whole, the Spanish doctors followed a well tried protocol conforming to the best international standards.

The investigators first visited the participants at home to inquire whether they slept well or not. They made a night polygram on the spot, using a portable apparatus to record data ranging from oxygen saturation of the blood, to heartbeat, snoring and bodily position.

Ten-second stoppages five times an hour

The second phase of the study took place in the hospital. All individuals showing critical values in the measurements made at home, and a subsample of those with normal values, were called in to undergo a more detailed examination. In the hospital, once they were asleep, they were subjected to polysomnography tests, combining electroencephalography, electrooculography (recordings of eye movements), electromyography (recordings of muscle movements) and electrocardiography. Respiratory sensors and microphones placed on the neck to reco

Contact: European Respiratory Society Press Office
European Respiratory Society

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