Doctors often recommend compression stockings for a variety of health conditions — from deep vein thrombosis to leg swelling (edema) of pregnancy to lymphedema to varicose veins. But new research published in the November 2011 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine suggests that this type of medical therapy may benefit people with a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea.
Researchers in Paris, France, instructed a group of people with obstructive sleep apnea to wear stockings to wear the support hose daily for 1 week; the comparison group did not wear stockings for 1 week. After a week, the groups switched. During the study, every night the researchers measured each participant’s neck fluid volume.
The researchers theorized that preventing fluid accumulation in the legs by using stockings would then prevent fluid from building up in the neck – and their theory proved correct in this small study of 12 people. When the people in the study wore the stockings, they had 62% less fluid in the legs, 60% reduction in the size of their necks (indicating less fluid buildup), and 36% fewer sleep apnea incidents per hour.
Sleep apnea, which causes between 5 and 30 brief interruptions in sleep per hour, doesn’t just leave you drowsy. Obstructive sleep apnea can wreck serious havoc on your health.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, the airway blockage caused by sleep apnea can increase your blood pressure, as well as increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes, heart failure and arrhythmias. It also increases the likelihood that a person will be involved in work-related or driving accidents.
Doctors treat obstructive sleep apnea by prescribing lifestyle changes (like losing weight and avoiding alcohol) and oral appliance and continuous positive airway pressure machines to make breathing at night easier.
Compression wear are prescribed for people with a wide variety of venous insufficiency disorders. Using compression hosiery and compression stocking aids can promote blood flow, reducing the risk of blood clots, leg swelling and other vein problems.
If you have vein problems or chronic sleep apnea, you should be followed by a doctor to monitor your progress and ensure that the treatments recommended for you are working. Talk to your doctor about the study findings or for answers to any questions you have about your medical conditions.
Source: Redolfi S, Arnulf I, Pottier M, Lajou J, Koskas I, Bradley TD, Similowski T. Attenuation of obstructive sleep apnea by compression stockings in subjects with venous insufficiency. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2011 Nov 1;184(9):1062-6.