Sleep Apnea and Associated Diseases

Author: Shelley Ensz. Scleroderma is highly variable. See Types of Scleroderma. Read Disclaimer
Overview of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea and Autoimmune Diseases
Patient Stories


Sleep apnea causes people to frequently stop breathing during sleep. The episodes can last for several seconds or longer. It results in unrefreshing sleep which can cause daytime sleepiness and fatigue. It is associated with many diseases, including high blood pressure, obesity, and heart problems. It is diagnosed with sleep laboratory studies, and typically treated with a CPAP machine, however other methods may include surgery, oxygen, medications, and throat exercises.

Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) is associated with several types of sleep disruptions, including restless leg syndrome) but there is not an increased prevalence of sleep apnea in scleroderma patients. (Also see What is Scleroderma?)

Sleep Apnea People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer. American Sleep Apnea Association

Sleep Apnea and Autoimmune Diseases

Scleroderma can cause significant sleep disturbances, including disruption of sleep due to restless leg syndrome, heartburn, shortness of breath, and joint and muscle pain. However, there is not an increased incidence of sleep apnea in scleroderma patients.

Decrease of Serum IGF-1 Level is Not Associated With Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Fibromyalgia (FMS) Patients. In FMS patients, serum IGF-1 levels may decrease due to age and PSQI; however, this may not be related to the severity of obstructive sleep apnea. Archives of Rheumatology, 02/10/2017. (Also see Fibromyalgia)

Inflammatory Response Mechanisms Exacerbating Hypoxemia in Coexistent Pulmonary Fibrosis and Sleep Apnea. Increased understanding of the inflammatory mechanisms driving hypoxemia in pulmonary fibrosis and obstructive sleep apnea may potentiate the identification of appropriate therapeutic targets for developing effective therapies. Hindawi, 03/17/2015. (Also see Pulmonary Fibrosis Research)

Sleep disruption in systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) patients: clinical and polysomnographic findings. Patients with SSc have significant disturbance of their sleep. Esophageal dyskinesia and dyspnea, which are common complications of SSc, were commonly associated with indices of sleep disruption. RLS (restless legs syndrome) but not sleep apnea appears to have an increased prevalence in SSc. Sleep Med. (Also see Restless Leg Syndrome, Esophageal Involvement, and Lung Involvement)

Complications of Sleep Apnea

Untreated sleep apnea may worsen markers of heart health and diabetes. Properly treating a common sleep–related breathing disorder may have benefits for the heart and for blood sugar, a new study suggests. Reuters Health, 06/14/2017. (Also see Media Stories about Diabetes)

Sleep apnea in children tied to changes in brain. In children with a common condition that causes them to periodically stop breathing during sleep, areas of the brain involved with thinking and problem–solving appear to be smaller than in children who sleep normally, a study finds. Reuters Health, 03/17/2017.

Nocturia in Patients With Sleep-Disordered Breathing (SDB) and Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). Continuous positive airway pressure has the potential to reduce nocturia and risk factors for SDB, which may be beneficial in older men with CVD and obstructive sleep apnea. PubMed, Circ J, 10/19/2015. (Also see Cardiac (Heart) Involvement)

Sleep Apnea May Speed Memory Loss, Alzheimer's Onset. Sleep apnea may hasten memory and thinking declines, leading to earlier diagnoses of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. NBC News, 04/17/2015.

Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease, Stroke. When a snorer repeatedly stops breathing for brief moments, it can lead to cardiovascular problems and potentially be life-threatening. American Heart Association, 09/16/2015. (Also see Cardiac (Heart) Involvement)

Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea. An overnight sleep study, or polysomnography, is required to diagnose OSA. Medscape.

Sleep Disturbance and Illness

Sleep Disturbance and Illness. With the onset of chronic illness, a good night's sleep is often the first thing to go. Sometimes poor sleep is a precursor to illness, and other times it is a result. ISN.

Overview of Sleep Disorders and Illness
Suggestions for Better Sleep
Sleep Disorders and Genetics
Sleep Spindles
Immune System and Circadian Clocks
Infections and Sleep
Inflammation and Sleep
Sleep Apnea


Compression stockings may ease sleep apnea. Wearing compression stockings during the day may slightly improve sleep apnea at night, a small study suggests. Reuters Health, 01/09/2015.

Sleep Apnea Treatments and Drugs. For milder cases of sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking. If these measures don't improve your signs and symptoms or if your apnea is moderate to severe, a number of other treatments are available. Certain devices can help open up a blocked airway. In other cases, surgery may be necessary. Mayo Clinic.

Sleep Apnea Patient Stories

Sherry: Fibromyalgia, Hypothyroidism and Raynaud's He said Fibromyalgia is just pain, and if I could not handle my job, I should quit…

William M: Scleroderma or Lupus I had to give up my career of being a registered nurse (RN) over two years ago due to total disability…

Go to Sleep Disturbance Personal Stories

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