A new study has discovered a relationship between increased alcohol consumption and a sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD). Investigators found that men who consumed more than one drink per day had a 25 percent greater chance for mild or worse SRBD. Interesting, the results did not apply to women.

The study, authored by Paul E. Peppard, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, focused on 775 men and 645 women, who were evaluated for alcohol consumption and a sleep-related breathing disorder. It was discovered that, relative to men who consumed less alcohol, for each increment of one drink per day, men who consumed more alcohol had 25 percent greater odds of a mild or worse SRBD.

Among women, minimal to moderate alcohol consumption was not significantly associated with an increased risk of an SRBD. According to Peppard, possible explanations for this include the limited range of alcohol consumption reported by women in the study sample, reducing the ability to detect clinically important moderate associations.

Alternatively, added Peppard, women may be more resistant than men to threats to nocturnal respiratory stability. Such protection may be due to hormonally-mediated increased ventilatory drive, anatomical differences or other characteristics that may provide general protection for women from events of an SRBD, noted Peppard, adding that women, for example, appear to require relatively greater increases in body mass to demonstrate weight-related increments in an SRBD compared to men.

“Experimental evidence is fairly consistent in demonstrating acute effects of alcohol exposure on initiating or exacerbating an SRBD, perhaps by reducing upper airway patency via reduced dilatory muscle tone, or by blunted ventilatory response to hypoxia,” said Peppard.

“Based on the previous experimental evidence, men and women with an SRBD, or those particularly susceptible to an SRBD, should be advised to avoid alcohol near bedtime.”

The study is published in the April 15th issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (JCSM).

Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine