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Sleep Med. 2013 Feb;14(2):149-54. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2012.07.007. Epub 2012 Sep 6.

Clinical and polysomnographic characteristics and response to continuous positive airway pressure therapy in obstructive sleep apnea patients with nightmares.

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  • 1University Sleep Disorders Center, College of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.



To assess the characteristics of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) patients with nightmares and the effects of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy on nightmares.


Consecutive patients referred with a clinical suspicion of OSA underwent attended overnight sleep studies. OSA and nightmares were diagnosed according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) criteria, and CPAP titration was performed in accordance with the AASM guidelines. A follow-up visit was performed 3months later, and the patients with nightmares were divided into two groups: group 1 used CPAP with good compliance, whereas group 2 refused CPAP treatment and did not use other alternative treatments for OSA.


The study included 99 patients who had been diagnosed with OSA with nightmares. Their mean age was 47.2±11.2years, and they had a mean apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of 36.5±34.3/h. Also included were 124 patients with OSA without nightmares. The mean age of these patients was 45.4±13.9years, and they had a mean AHI of 40.2±35/h. The patients with nightmares had a significantly higher AHI during rapid eye movement sleep (REM) compared with the patients without nightmares (51.7±28.1 vs 39.8±31.9/h). Logistic regression analysis revealed that the REM-AHI and interrupted sleep at night were independent predictors of nightmares in the OSA patients. Nightmares disappeared in 91% of the patients who used CPAP compared with 36% of patients who refused to use CPAP (p<0.001).


Nightmares in OSA patients are associated with a higher REM-AHI. CPAP therapy results in a significant improvement in nightmare occurrence.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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