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Sleep Med. 2008 Aug;9(6):675-83. Epub 2007 Nov 19.

Hypersomnolence, insomnia and the pathophysiology of upper airway resistance syndrome.

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Division of Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, Stony Brook, DVA Medical Center, Northport, NY 11768, USA.



In order to test the hypothesis that upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) is merely an extension of the pathophysiology of obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea (OSA/H) to less severe pharyngeal collapse during sleep, we compared the severity of hypersomnolence and the prevalence of insomnia in UARS patients to the patterns observed for OSA/H patients. Our goal was to determine whether the severity of hypersomnolence and the prevalence of insomnia observed in UARS patients could have been predicted from the patterns observed among OSA/H patients.


We performed a retrospective study of a large consecutive patient series evaluated at an academic sleep disorders center, including 220 OSA/H patients and 137 UARS patients. Patients had no other sleep-related diagnosis and underwent an initial evaluation that included a measure of hypersomnolence [a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT); 95%] or insomnia questionnaire (87%). Patients were characterized by anthropometric data, polysomnographic descriptive measures of sleep, MSLT data and insomnia questionnaire data.


Severity of hypersomnolence decreased over the continuum from severe to mild OSA/H. A model fit to the OSA/H patients to predict severity of hypersomnolence significantly underestimated hypersomnolence in UARS patients, which was comparable in severity to that of patients with mild OSA/H. The frequency of sleep-onset insomnia increased over the continuum from severe to mild OSA/H and increased further in UARS.


UARS is, in some respects, an extension of OSA/H to less severe pharyngeal collapse, but this does not adequately account for the symptom profile of patients with UARS. A physical model is proposed to account for the excess somnolence in UARS relative to expectations and the increasing frequency of sleep-onset insomnia along the continuum from severe OSA/H to UARS.

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