Vitamin D: No Help for Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea likely not affected by vitamin D deficiency

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The "sunshine vitamin," as it's sometimes called, may have nothing to do with one common sleep condition.

A new study found no evidence to support a link between vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in non-obese older men. Vitamin D deficiency also appeared unlikely to worsen pre-existing OSA symptoms in these patients.

OSA is a sleep disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. This can cause poor sleep and low blood oxygen levels, which can increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

"... Our results ultimately suggest that low vitamin D levels do not cause or worsen OSA," said lead study author Ken Kunisaki, MD, medical director of the Sleep Apnea Program at the Minneapolis VA, in a press release. "Therefore, taking additional vitamin D supplements is not likely to prevent or improve OSA."

For this study, Dr. Kunisaki and team looked at 2,827 patients who were generally healthy, mostly white (about 92 percent) men with an average age of 76. Some had OSA.

These researchers found that the men with OSA did have lower vitamin D levels in their bodies than those without.

However, this was explained by obesity. Vitamin D deficiency was tied to larger body mass index (BMI) and neck circumference — but not to OSA itself.

Dr. Kunisaki explained that obese patients may be less likely to be physically active, limiting their exposure to sunlight and inhibiting their ability to absorb vitamin D from the sun.

This study was published online Dec. 23 in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the National Institute on Aging and the National Center for Research Resources funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 30, 2015
Last Updated:
January 3, 2016