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Nighttime Sleep and Respiratory Disturbances in Individuals Receiving Methadone to Treat Opioid Use Disorder.

Opioids are a leading cause of drug overdose deaths in the United States. Methadone used as medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) reduces drug cravings and promotes abstinence. However, individuals in methadone-based MOUD treatment commonly report subjective sleep complaints and are at risk for respiratory depression from opioids. We investigated nighttime sleep and respiratory function in eight individuals (six women, two men; ages 31-68 years) in their first 90 days of methadone-based MOUD treatment. Participants underwent overnight cardiorespiratory polysomnography. Sleep and respiratory variables were characterized with descriptive statistics for comparison to reference data from similarly aged healthy adults. Although participants spent 8.1 ± 0.3 hours (mean ± SD) in bed, their total sleep time was only 6.8 ± 1.3 hours. They exhibited longer sleep latency and intermittent wakefulness. Sleep structure was irregular, with disrupted sleep cycles. Participants also displayed a decreased amount of N1 sleep and an increased amount of N3 sleep, compared with reference data. Participants showed respiratory depression, with an average apnea-hypopnea index of 16.5 ± 8.9 events per hour. Central sleep apneas comprised 69.1% ± 20.9% of the respiratory events. A Cheyne-Stokes-like breathing pattern, consisting of 30-second cycles of three central sleep apneas, was observed in 75% of participants. Our results suggest that individuals early in methadone-based MOUD treatment experience disordered sleep and respiratory disturbances. Such nighttime physiological changes may have serious long-term health consequences and contribute to unintended overdose rates. Identifying and treating MOUD individuals with sleep apnea could reduce risk of death.

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