The study shows that each standard deviation increase in the apnea-hypopnea index, a measure of sleep-disordered breathing severity, was associated with the equivalent of 215 days of biological age acceleration. Similarly, each standard deviation increase in the arousal index, a measure of sleep disruption, was associated with the equivalent of 321 days of age acceleration.
"People's biological age might not be the same as their chronological age. Individuals, whose biological age is higher than their chronological age, exhibit age acceleration or fast ageing. In our study, we found that more severe sleep-disordered breathing is associated with epigenetic age acceleration. Our data provide biological evidence supporting adverse physiological and health effects of untreated sleep-disordered breathing," said lead author Xiaoyu Li.
Findings of the study were published in the Journal of Sleep.
Sleep-disordered breathing, such as obstructive sleep apnea, is characterized by abnormalities of respiration during sleep. Episodes often result in reductions in blood oxygen saturation and are usually terminated by brief arousals from sleep. Nearly 30 million adults in the US have obstructive sleep apnea. Common warning signs include snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness.
According to the authors, epigenetic age acceleration is a DNA methylation-based marker of fast biological ageing, and it is associated with modifiable lifestyle factors. Although sleep-disordered breathing is associated with multiple age-related health disorders, its relationship with epigenetic ageing has not been well studied.
Another surprising finding was that the associations were stronger in women than in men, suggesting that women may be particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of sleep-disordered breathing.
"While women are often considered to be at lower risk for health outcomes related to sleep-disordered breathing, our findings suggest increased biological susceptibility," said Li.
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