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Do intestinal bacteria regulate sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a chronic sleep condition affecting more than one billion people worldwide. Recent studies suggest that OSA can alter the gut microbiome and may promote OSA-associated co-morbidities, including diabetes, hypertension and cognitive problems.

In this study, researchers discovered how OSA-related sleep disturbances affect the gut microbiome in mice and how transplanting those gut bacteria into other mice can cause changes in sleep patterns in the recipient mice.

The study exposed mice to room air or intrmittent hypoxia – a condition that mimics OSA. After 6 weeks, the researchers collected fecal material from all the mice. A third group of mice was given either a fecal transplant from the mice breathing room air or those exposed to intermittent hypoxia. The transplanted mice underwwent sleep recordings for 3 consecutiv days. The authors foud that the mice who received transplants from the intermittent hypoxia group slept longer and slept more often during their normal period of wakefulness, suggesting increased sleepiness.

The authors say that the study shows the gut microbiome plays a major role in sleep regulation. The results could translate into treatments that target the gut microbiome in humans with OSA.

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