Patients with obstructive sleep apnea perceived as looking younger after CPAP treatment

Data showed that perceived age of sleep apnea patients was six years younger after one month of using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

Patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea appeared younger after one month of treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a small study showed.

To compare the effects of CPAP treatment and placebo intervention on the facial appearance of patients with obstructive sleep apnea, researchers randomized 30 patients to receive CPAP or a placebo treatment involving a nasal dilator strip for one month. Patients used CPAP for a mean of 6.0 hours per night on 94% of the nights and used the placebo intervention on 98% of the nights. Following a washout period of 15 days with no treatment, patients were evaluated by using questionnaires, polysomnography, and facial photographs taken at baseline and after both interventions.

Photographs were presented electronically in a randomized order to 704 observers (622 of whom were used in the final analysis), who estimated the patients' perceived age and then rated their health, attractiveness, and tiredness on a scale of 0 to 100. Observers were unaware that the patients had apnea. Results of the study were published by CHEST on March 26.

After CPAP treatment, patients were rated younger (47.9±3.5 years) than at baseline (53.9±4.0 years) or after the placebo treatment (49.8±3.7 years) (P<0.001). CPAP adherence, total sleep time, and percentage of total sleep time with an oxyhemoglobin saturation below 90% at baseline were predictors of a decreased age rating after CPAP treatment, according to a linear regression analysis. The ratings on health, tiredness, and attractiveness were not affected by treatment.

The authors wrote, “The results of this study can serve as an additional source of motivation for OSA [obstructive sleep apnea] patients to comply with CPAP treatment and can be used to facilitate the management of OSA.”