INTRODUCTION - Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has been hypothesized to cause a hypersympathetic state, which may be the mechanism for the increased incidence of cardiovascular disease in OSA. However, there is a high prevalence of hyperglycemia in OSA patients, which may also contribute to autonomic dysfunction.
METHODS - Thirty-five patients with OSA and 11 controls with average body mass index (BMI) of 32.0 ± 4.6 underwent polysomnography, glucose tolerance testing, autonomic function tests, lying and standing catecholamines, overnight urine collection, and baseline ECG and continuous blood pressure measurements for spectral analysis. A linear regression model adjusting for age and BMI was used to analyze spectral data, other outcome measures were analyzed with Kruskal-Wallis test.
RESULTS - Twenty-three OSA patients and two control patients had hyperglycemia (based on 2001 American Diabetes Association criteria). Apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) correlated with total power and low frequency (LF) power (r = 0.138, 0.177, p = 0.031; and r = 0.013) but not with the LF/high frequency (HF) ratio (p = 0.589). Glucose negatively correlated with LF systolic power (r = -0.171, p = 0.038) but not AHI (p = 0.586) and was marginally associated with pnn50, total power, LF, and HF power (p ranged from 0.07 to 0.08).
CONCLUSION - These data suggest that patients with OSA and mild hyperglycemia have a trend towards lower heart rate variability and sympathetic tone. Hyperglycemia is an important confounder and should be evaluated in studies of OSA and autonomic function.