This study was conducted to evaluate whether brain (B-type) natriuretic peptide (BNP) changes during sleep are associated with the frequency and severity of apneic/hypopneic episodes, intermittent arousals, and hypoxia.
Sleep apnea is strongly associated with heart failure (HF) and could conceivably worsen HF through increased sympathetic activity, hemodynamic stress, hypoxemia, and oxidative stress. If apneic activity does cause acute stress in HF, it should increase BNP.
Sixty-four HF patients with New York Heart Association functional class II and III HF and ejection fraction <40% underwent a baseline sleep study. Five patients with no sleep apnea and 12 with severe sleep apnea underwent repeat sleep studies, during which blood was collected every 20 min for the measurement of BNP. Patients with severe sleep apnea also underwent a third sleep study with frequent BNP measurements while they were administered oxygen. This provided 643 observations with which to relate apnea to BNP. The association of log BNP with each of 6 markers of apnea severity was evaluated with repeated measures regression models.
There was no relationship between BNP and the number of apneic/hypopneic episodes or the number of arousals. However, the burden of hypoxemia (the time spent with oxygen saturation <90%) significantly predicted BNP concentrations; each 10% increase in duration of hypoxemia increased BNP by 9.6% (95% confidence interval: 1.5% to 17.7%, p = 0.02).
Hypoxemia appears to be an important factor that underlies the impact of sleep abnormalities on hemodynamic stress in patients with HF. Prevention of hypoxia might be especially important for these patients.