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Are Sleep Apnea and Rheumatoid Arthritis Connected?

March 14, 2024

Filed under: Uncategorized — drromack @ 11:35 pm

Sleeping man using CPAP machineAccording to the World Health Organization, 18 million people in the world suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The chronic inflammatory disorder can cause more than stiff, sore joints. According to one study, 57% of RA sufferers also experience insomnia. Many factors contribute to poor sleep quality, like pain, but researchers have found another potential connection. Sleep apnea and RA can go hand-in-hand. Here’s what you need to know to get a good night’s rest.

Link Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sleep Apnea

39 million adults suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The sleep disorder causes frequent breathing disruptions throughout the night from an obstruction in the upper airway that’s created by the soft tissues in the back of your mouth and throat. Although anyone can develop OSA, a 2016 study published in BMJ Open reported that the risk of the breathing disorder is 75% higher for people with RA.

Studies have found that patients with RA are more likely to experience severe sleep apnea episodes. The risk increases for many reasons, which may include:

  • Underdeveloped lower jaw.
  • Upper airway size reduction from degeneration of the temporomandibular joints (TMJ).
  • Compression on the brain stem from the narrowing of the spaces between the cervical vertebrae.

Sleep issues can also result from inflammation caused by RA. An increase in certain proinflammatory cytokines can disrupt normal sleep regulation, which can also make you more susceptible to OSA. Each breathing disruption interrupts your sleep cycle and depletes your body of oxygen.

RA and OSA Health Risks

A poor night’s rest isn’t the only complication of OSA and RA. Both conditions are attributed to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. You can even be at risk of sudden death. 

Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea

You can breathe easier and support your wellness with sleep apnea therapy. Your sleep specialist will help you find the solution you need to stop breathing disruptions, which may include:

  • CPAP: A CPAP machine is the most traditional method of treating OSA. Air pressure is delivered through a mask worn over the mouth or nose to prevent pauses in breathing. 
  • Oral Appliance: An oral appliance is a customized device that trains your jaw to rest in a more comfortable position to keep the airway open. It can be used alone or along with a CPAP. 

You can lessen your risk of sleep disturbances by committing to your treatment plan. You can breathe and sleep better with OSA treatment.

About Dr. Deborah A. Romack

Dr. Romack graduated from Baylor College of Dentistry and has continued her training in TMJ disorders and sleep dentistry. She is affiliated with several professional organizations, including the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. Request an appointment through her website or call her office at (817) 646-3084.

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114 W Columbia St., Weatherford, TX 76086 USA
Deborah A. Romack, DDS Weatherford, TX dentist providing sleep apnea therapy. (817) 594-3806