Can the Brain Overcome Sleep Apnea?

New research from the University of Toronto may point to a possible solution for the millions of people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing or, in some cases, abnormally low breathing.  In the Toronto study, sleep apnea was simulated in rats.  It was found that after each breathing stoppage, a chemical called noradrenaline was released.  This chemical causes increased breathing, and the researchers say they believe the brain is using the unwanted side-effects of sleep apnea to help it learn to prevent future apneas by increasing the depth of breathing.

These findings are important because they suggest that artificial manipulation with common drugs that affect noradrenaline levels in the brain could also help improve breathing in patients suffering from sleep apnea. This work could serve as the potential basis for developing the long sought after pill for sleep apnea.