The sympathetic nervous system and catecholamines metabolism in obstructive sleep apnoea

Valeria Bisogni, Martino F. Pengo, Giuseppe Maiolino, Gian Paolo Rossi


Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is the most common sleep disorder of breathing in middle-aged and overweight subjects. It features recurrent episodes of upper airway total (apnoea) o partial (hypopnea) collapse during sleep, which are associated with a reduction in blood oxygen saturation and with arousal from sleep to re-establish airway patency. An association of OSA with dysregulation of the autonomous nervous system (ANS) and altered catecholamines (CAs) metabolism has been contended for years. However, the pathophysiology mechanisms underlying these alterations remain to be fully clarified. Nonetheless, these alterations are deemed to play a key pathogenic role in the established association of OSA with several conditions besides arterial hypertension (HT), including coronary artery disease, stroke, and, more in general, with increased risk of cardiovascular (CV) events. Hence, in this review we will analyse the relationship between the sleep disturbances associated with OSA and the altered function of the ANS, including CAs metabolism.