Background: Obesity-hypoventilation syndrome (OHS) is efficiently treated by noninvasive ventilation (NIV). Sleep respiratory disturbances, reduced ventilatory drive, and excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) are commonly reported, but their relationships remain unclear.
Objectives: To characterize sleep breathing disorders encountered in patients with OHS, to compare low and normal CO2 responders in terms of sleep abnormalities, subjective and objective measures of EDS, and to measure the changes induced by NIV on these parameters.
Methods: At baseline and after 5 nights of NIV, 15 consecutive patients (mean [± SD] age, 55 ± 9 years; mean body mass index, 38.7 ± 6.1 kg/m2; Paco2, 47.3 ± 2.3 mm Hg) prospectively underwent polysomnography, CO2 ventilatory response testing, Epworth sleepiness scale scoring, and the Oxford Sleep Resistance (OSLER) test, which is an objective vigilance test.
Results: OHS patients exhibited obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (mean apnea-hypopnea index, 62 ± 32 events per hour) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep hypoventilation (mean REM sleep time, 35 ± 33%). Baseline CO2 sensitivity was significantly related to the proportion of hypoventilation during REM sleep (r = 0.54; p = 0.037). Six patients showed abnormal sleep latencies during the OSLER test (71% of the low CO2 responders vs 14% of the normal CO2 responders). Low CO2 responders exhibited significantly shorter sleep latencies during the OSLER test (23 ± 14 vs 37 ± 8 min, respectively; p = 0.05). Using NIV, diurnal blood gas levels were improved and REM sleep hypoventilation were suppressed. Objective sleepiness was improved in low CO2 responders (p = 0.04).
Conclusion: In OHS patients, the lower the daytime CO2 response, the higher the proportion of REM sleep hypoventilation and daytime sleepiness. Short-term therapy with NIV improves all of these parameters.