Sleep apnea in patients reporting insomnia or restless legs symptoms

M T Bianchi, B Goparaju, M Moro
Acta Neurologica Scandinavica 2016, 133 (1): 61-7

OBJECTIVE: Insomnia and restless legs syndrome (RLS) are defined by self-reported symptoms, and polysomnography (PSG) is not routinely indicated. Occult obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), common even in asymptomatic adults, may complicate management of patients presenting with insomnia or restless legs. To this end, we investigated objective sleep apnea metrics in a large retrospective cohort according to self-reported symptom profiles.

METHODS: We compared sleep apnea findings in patients referred to our center according to self-reported symptoms associated with insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless legs. The cohort included over 1900 adults who underwent diagnostic (n = 1418) or split-night (n = 504) PSGs and completed a symptom and medical history questionnaire.

RESULTS: More than 30% of patients who did not endorse any OSA symptoms, but did endorse insomnia or restless legs symptoms, were found to have OSA based on apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) >5 during overnight laboratory testing. Regression models of the full cohort showed that the risk of OSA was related, as expected, to older age, male sex, elevated body mass index, and presence of OSA symptoms. The presence of insomnia symptoms did not alter the risk of OSA. The presence of restless legs symptoms showed a small odds ratio for lowered OSA risk.

CONCLUSIONS: Objective evidence of OSA occurs similarly in those with insomnia or restless legs symptoms, even among those without self-reported OSA symptoms. Providers should be aware of the potential for occult OSA in populations with insomnia and restless legs, which may complicate their management in addition to presenting an independent medical risk itself.

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