Links between Sleep Apnoea and Insomnia in a British Cohort
Poor sleep is a major public health problem with implications for a wide range of critical health outcomes. Insomnia and sleep apnoea are the two most common causes of poor sleep, and recent studies have shown that these disorders frequently co-occur. Comorbid insomnia and sleep apnoea can substantially impair quality of life and increase the overall risk of mortality. However, the causal and physiological links between sleep apnoea and insomnia are unclear. It is also unknown whether having a higher risk for one condition can increase the risk of developing the other. Here, we investigated links between sleep apnoea and insomnia in a British population using a combination of self-reported questionnaires and causal inference. We found that 54.3% of the cohort had moderate insomnia, 9.4% had moderate sleep apnoea, and that 6.2% scored high for both conditions. Importantly, having a higher risk of sleep apnoea was associated with a higher risk of insomnia and vice versa. To determine the causal directionality between sleep apnoea and insomnia, we used Mendelian randomisation and found evidence that sleep apnoea could cause insomnia, but not the reverse. To elucidate how both sleep apnoea and insomnia were linked to each other, we looked at the behavioural markers of poor sleep. We found that feeling fatigued after sleeping and having noticeable sleep problems were linked to a higher burden of both sleep apnoea and insomnia. In conclusion, our results show that sleep apnoea increases the risk of developing insomnia, and both conditions can result in fatigue. We highlight the importance of considering and treating the symptoms of both conditions.
Peer reviewed: True
Acknowledgements: We thank all participants for answering the questionnaires and SleepHubs for providing access to the data. We thank L. Miguel Martins, Civia Z Chen, Charles Oulton, Samantha Jackson, Erla Björnsdóttir, and Neil Stanley for their scientific advice, proofreading, and helpful discussions.
Funder: International Sleep Charity