Article: Determinants of Slow-Wave Activity in Overweight and Obese Adults: Roles of Sex, Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Testosterone Levels
Authors: Lisa L. Morselli*, Karla A. Temple, Rachel Leproult, David A. Ehrmann, Eve Van Cauter, and Babak Mokhlesi
*Dr. Morselli is a third year Endocrinology Fellow
Journal: Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2018 Jul 12;9:377
Background: Slow-wave activity (SWA) in non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, obtained by spectral analysis of the electroencephalogram, is a marker of the depth or intensity of NREM sleep. Higher levels of SWA are associated with lower arousability during NREM sleep and protect against sleep fragmentation. Multiple studies have documented that SWA levels are higher in lean women, compared to age-matched lean men, but whether these differences persist in obese subjects is unclear. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition associated with obesity, is more prevalent in men than in women. Sex differences in SWA could therefore be one of the factors predisposing men to OSA. Furthermore, we hypothesized that higher levels of testosterone may be associated with lower levels of SWA.
Objective: The aim of the current study was to identify sex differences in the determinants of SWA in young and middle-aged overweight and obese adults.
Methods: We enrolled 101 overweight and obese but otherwise healthy participants from the community (44 men, 57 women) in this cross-sectional study. Participants underwent an overnight in-laboratory polysomnogram. The recordings were submitted to sleep staging and spectral analysis. Sex differences and the potential contribution of testosterone levels were evaluated after adjusting for age, body mass index and race/ethnicity.
Results: OSA was present in 66% of men and in 44% of women. After adjustment for differences in age, race/ethnicity and BMI, the odds ratio for OSA in men vs. women was 3.17 (95% CI 1.14-9.43, p = 0.027). There was a graded inverse relationship between the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) and SWA in men (β = -0.21, p = 0.018) but not in women (β = 0.10, p = 0.207). In a multivariate regression model, higher testosterone levels were independently associated with lower SWA in men after controlling for age, race/ethnicity and apnea-hypopnea index (β = -0.56, p = 0.025).
Conclusion: Increasing severity of OSA was associated with significant decrease in sleep intensity in men but not in women. Higher testosterone levels were associated with lower sleep intensity in men. Men with higher testosterone levels may therefore have lower arousal thresholds and higher ventilatory instability in NREM sleep, and be at greater risk of OSA.
Link to journal online: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2018.00377/full