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Sleep Board Review Question: Restless Legs
Impact of Sleep Duration and Weekend Oversleep on Body Weight 
and Blood Pressure in Adolescents
Role of Spousal Involvement in Continuous Positive Airway Pressure 
   (CPAP) Adherence in Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
The Impact of an Online Prematriculation Sleep Course (Sleep 101) on
   Sleep Knowledge and Behaviors in College Freshmen: A Pilot Study
Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Quality of Life: Comparison of the SAQLI,
   FOSQ, and SF-36 Questionnaires
Gender Differences in Real-Home Sleep of Young and Older Couples
Brief Review: Sleep Health and Safety for Transportation Workers
Lack of Impact of Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea on Sleepiness, Mood and
   Quality of Life
Alpha Intrusion on Overnight Polysomnogram
Sleep Board Review Question: Insomnia in Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Long-Term Neurophysiologic Impact of Childhood Sleep Disordered 
   Breathing on Neurocognitive Performance
Sleep Board Review Question: Hyperarousal in Insomnia
Sleep Board Review Question: Epilepsy or Parasomnia?
Sleep Board Review Question: Nocturnal Hypoxemia in COPD
Sleep Board Review Questions: Medications and Their 
   Adverse Effects
Sleep Board Review Questions: The Restless Sleeper
Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Cardiovascular Disease:
   Back and Forward in Time Over the Last 25 Years
Sleep Board Review Questions: The Late Riser
Sleep Board Review Questions: CPAP Adherence in OSA
Sleep Board Review Questions: Sleep Disordered Breathing 
   That Improves in REM
The Impact Of Sleep-Disordered Breathing On Body
Mass Index (BMI): The Sleep Heart Health Study (SHHS)
Incidence and Remission of Parasomnias among Adolescent Children in the 
   Tucson Children’s Assessment of Sleep Apnea (TuCASA) Study 
A 45-Year Old Man with Excessive Daytime Somnolence, 
   and Witnessed Apnea at Altitude


The Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care publishes articles related to those who treat sleep disorders in sleep medicine from a variety of primary backgrounds, including pulmonology, neurology, psychiatry, psychology, otolaryngology, and dentistry. Manuscripts may be either basic or clinical original investigations or review articles. Potential authors of review articles are encouraged to contact the editors before submission, however, unsolicited review articles will be considered.



Sleep Board Review Question: Restless Legs

Olabimpe Omobomi, MD MPH

Rohit Budhiraja, MD

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Impact of Sleep Duration and Weekend Oversleep on Body Weight and Blood Pressure in Adolescents

*Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA USA

Asthma and Airways Research Center, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, AZ USA

Department of Pediatrics, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, AZ USA

§Department of Medicine, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, AZ USA

Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences, University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, Tucson, AZ USA

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Role of Spousal Involvement in Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Adherence in Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Salma Batool-Anwar, MD, MPH 2

Carol M. Baldwin, PhD, MSN 3

Shira Fass, PhD4

Stuart F. Quan, MD 1,2


1University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, AZ USA

2Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA USA

3Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation and College of Health Solutions, Phoenix, AZ USA

4Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio USA



Introduction: Little is known about the impact of spousal involvement on continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) adherence. The aim of this study was to determine whether spouse involvement affects adherence with CPAP therapy, and how this association varies with gender.  

Methods: 194 subjects recruited from Apnea Positive Pressure Long Term Efficacy Study (APPLES) completed the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS). The majority of participants were Caucasian (83%), and males (73%), with mean age of 56 years, mean BMI of 31 kg/m2. & 62% had severe OSA. The DAS is a validated 32-item self-report instrument measuring dyadic consensus, satisfaction, cohesion, and affectional expression. A high score in the DAS is indicative of a person’s adjustment to the marriage. Additionally, questions related to spouse involvement with general health and CPAP use were asked. CPAP use was downloaded from the device and self-report, and compliance was defined as usage > 4 h per night.

Results: There were no significant differences in overall marital quality between the compliant and noncompliant subjects. However, level of spousal involvement was associated with increased CPAP adherence at 6 months (p=0.01). After stratifying for gender these results were significant only among males (p=0.03). Three years after completing APPLES, level of spousal involvement was not associated with CPAP compliance even after gender stratification.

Conclusion: Spousal involvement is important in determining CPAP compliance in males in the 1st 6 months after initiation of therapy but is not predictive of longer-term adherence. Involvement of the spouse should be considered an integral part of CPAP initiation procedures.


Abbreviations List

AASM: American Academy of Sleep Medicine

AHI: Apnena Hyponea Index

APPLES: Apnea Positive Pressure Long Term Efficacy Study

BMI: Body Mass Index

CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure

DAS: Dyadic Adjustment Scale

EEG: Electroencephalogram

EMG: Electromyograms

EOG: Electroocculogram

OSA: Obstructive Sleep Apnea

PSG: polysomnography



Obstructive Sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by repetitive episodes of upper airway closure during sleep resulting in oxygen desaturation and frequent arousals. In addition to cardiovascular comorbidities, OSA has been linked to poor quality of life, depression and motor vehicle accidents. Recent data suggest an increase in the prevalence of OSA for both men and women (34% and 17.4% respectively) (1).

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the treatment of choice for OSA. Poor adherence, however, remains a widely recognized problem limiting overall effectiveness of CPAP therapy. Prior studies have identified various factors and strategies to promote CPAP adherence (2). In addition to disease, educational, and technology-specific considerations that can affect CPAP adherence, social and psychological dynamics are important components of adherence as well.

Several studies have suggested that partner/spousal dyadic support can play a positive role in the patient’s overall health and health behaviors (3,4) . For example, higher CPAP adherence was reported among patients with bed partners (5), as well as persons who were married versus single (6). Little is known about the influence of spousal involvement on CPAP adherence. One study indicated that perceived spousal support predicted greater CPAP adherence among men with high disease severity; however, pressure to adhere to treatment by the wife was not of benefit and predicted poorer CPAP adherence (7). Another study indicated reduced marital conflict by OSA patients following 3 months of CPAP, suggesting that marital conflict resolution might serve as an intervention for CPAP adherence (8). Despite these hints that dyadic support may play a role in CPAP adherence, participants in both studies by Baron et al. (7.8) consisted primarily of men, and the studies focusing on CPAP adherence by Lewis et al. (5) and Gagnadoux et al. (6) included only men. Thus, the aim of the current study was to determine whether spouse involvement affects CPAP adherence and how this association differs by gender using data from a large randomized trial of CPAP versus sham CPAP to treat OSA. 



Study Population and Protocol

The Apnea Positive Pressure Long-term Efficacy Study (APPLES) was a 6-month multicenter, randomized, double-blinded, 2-arm, sham-controlled, intention-to-treat study of CPAP efficacy on three domains of neurocognitive function in OSA. Three of the 5 APPLES Clinical Centers, the University of Arizona, Stanford University and St. Luke’s Hospital (Chesterfield, MO) participated in this ancillary study. A detailed description of the protocol has previously been published (9). Briefly, participants were either recruited through local advertisement, or from attending sleep clinics for evaluation of possible OSA. Symptoms indicative of OSA were used to prescreen potential participants. The initial clinical evaluation included administering informed consent, screening questionnaires, a history and physical examination, and a medical assessment by a study physician. Participants subsequently returned 2-4 weeks later for a 24-h sleep laboratory visit, during which polysomnography (PSG) was performed to confirm the diagnosis, followed by a day of neurocognitive, mood, sleepiness, and quality of life survey testing. Inclusion and exclusion criteria have been published previously and included age ≥ 18 years and a clinical diagnosis of OSA as defined by American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) criteria. Only participants with an apnea hypopnea index (AHI) ≥ 10 by PSG were randomized to continue in the APPLES study. Exclusion criteria were previous treatment for OSA with CPAP or surgery, oxygen saturation on baseline PSG <75% for >10% of the recording time, history of motor vehicle accident-related to sleepiness within the past 12 months, presence of chronic medical conditions, use of various medications known to affect sleep or neurocognitive function, and various health and social factors that may impact standardized testing procedures (e.g., shift work).

Following the PSG, participants with an AHI ≥ 10 who met other enrollment criteria were randomized to CPAP or sham CPAP for continued participation in APPLES. After randomization, participants returned to the sleep laboratory for a CPAP or sham CPAP titration PSG. Subsequent assessments were made at 2, and 6 months post-randomization at which time a test battery was re-administered. At the conclusion of their 6-month post-randomization evaluations, each participant was informed of their treatment group assignment and offered CPAP treatment going forward. Approximately 36 months after the conclusion of APPLES, participants were sent the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS) questionnaire with the addition of several additional questions related to health.

Assessment of Spouse involvement

Inclusion in the current analysis required that subjects were married during the APPLES study and remained married at the time of questionnaire administration. The DAS (10), a quality of marriage questionnaire, was utilized to assess marital relationship. It is a 32-item self-report instrument that incorporates four dimensions, including a 13 item dyadic consensus, 10 item dyadic satisfaction, 5 item dyadic cohesion, and 4 item affectional expression. A high DAS score is indicative of a person’s positive adjustment to the marriage. Additionally, questions related to spouse involvement with general health and CPAP use were asked (See Appendix for full questionnaire).


The PSG montage included monitoring of the electroencephalogram (EEG, C3-A2 or C4-A1, O2-A1 or O1-A2), electro-oculogram (EOG, ROC-A1, LOC-A2), chin and anterior tibialis electromyograms (EMG), heart rate by 2-lead electrocardiogram, snoring intensity (anterior neck microphone), nasal pressure (nasal cannula), nasal/oral thermistor, thoracic and abdominal movement (inductance plethysmography bands), and oxygen saturation (pulse oximetry). All PSG records were electronically transmitted to a centralized data coordinating and PSG reading center. Sleep and wakefulness were scored using Rechtschaffen and Kales criteria (11). Apneas and hypopneas were scored using American Academy of Sleep Medicine Task Force (1999) diagnostic criteria (12, 13). Briefly, an apnea was defined by a clear decrease (> 90%) from baseline in the amplitude of the nasal pressure or thermistor signal lasting ≥ 10 sec. Hypopneas were identified if there was a clear decrease (> 50% but ≤ 90%) from baseline in the amplitude of the nasal pressure or thermistor signal, or if there was a clear amplitude reduction of the nasal pressure signal ≥ 10 sec that did not reach the above criterion, but was associated with either an oxygen desaturation > 3% or an arousal.

Obstructive events were scored if there was persistence of chest or abdominal respiratory effort. Central events were noted if no displacement occurred on either the chest or abdominal channels. Sleep apnea was classified as mild (AHI 10.0 to 15.0 events per hour), moderate (AHI 15.1 to 30.0 events per hour), and severe (AHI more than 30 events per hour) (12).

CPAP adherence

The primary dependent variable of interest was CPAP adherence and was assessed by nightly use of CPAP at the 6-months follow up visit. CPAP use was downloaded from the device and the participants were considered to be adherent if the mean CPAP use was > 4 hours per night at 6-months. Long-term CPAP adherence was measured as self-reported adherence (hours per night) at the time of the DAS administration.

Statistical Analysis 

Statistical analyses were performed using STATA (Version 11, StataCorp TX USA). Univariate and multivariate logistic regression models were used to estimate the degree to which variables correlated with CPAP adherence. We examined the association between CPAP adherence and following variables: OSA severity as measured by the AHI, age, baseline body mass index (BMI, kg/m2), spousal involvement and the DAS. For these models, dichotomous variables were created for OSA severity (AHI < 15 vs. ≥ 15), obesity (BMI <30 kg/m2 vs. ≥30 kg/m2) and CPAP adherence (< 4 hours/night vs. ≥4 hours/night). Spousal involvement was ascertained using a 5 point Lickert scale and analyzed as a continuous variable.

To assess predictors of CPAP adherence we used multiple regression models. Unpaired t-tests were used to assess the effect of gender, age, OSA severity, BMI, and CPAP adherence in both the CPAP and Sham CPAP groups. Data for continuous and interval variables were expressed as mean ± SD, and as a percentage for categorical variables. Statistical significance was set at a P value <0.05, two-tailed. The variables that produced P value of < 0.05 were included in the final model.



Baseline demographic data on participants (N=194) who completed the DAS are outlined in Table 1.


Table1. Baseline Characteristics of APPLES Participants Who Completed Dyadic Data.


The majority of the participants were Caucasian (83%) and males (73%), with mean age of 56 years and a mean BMI of 31 kg/m2. Over half of the participants had severe OSA (62%). Table 2a demonstrates CPAP adherence at 6 months using multivariate analysis.


Table 2A. Multivariate Analysis of Adherence to CPAP or Sham CPAP at 6 Months.


The CPAP adherence was independently associated with advanced age (p < 0.01) and increasing spousal involvement (p < 0.01). After stratifying by treatment group, the association between CPAP adherence and spousal involvement was seen only amongst the CPAP group (Table 2b).


Table 2B. Multivariate Analysis of Adherence to CPAP at 6 Months.


Adjustment to marriage as reflected by items on the DAS questionnaire, however, was not associated with CPAP adherence.

Notably, after gender stratification, significant association between spousal involvement and CPAP adherence was limited to men alone (p=0.03). Three years after completing APPLES, 82 participants were still adherent by self-report (Table 3).


Table 3. Multivariate Analysis CPAP Adherence 3 years After Completing APPLES Study (based on subjective adherence).


At this time point, spousal involvement was not associated with CPAP adherence even after gender stratification.



This multicenter double blind study demonstrates that spousal involvement is important in determining CPAP adherence during the initial treatment period, but has no effect on long-term adherence. Notably, the positive results for adherence were seen only among husbands using CPAP, but there was no effect on wives using CPAP. In line with previous research, we also found that increase in age was associated with greater CPAP adherence among both men and women.

Prior studies have indicated that married versus single, CPAP patients with bed partners, perceived spousal support, and quality of marital relationship all play a role in promoting CPAP adherence (5-8). Although these studies support the idea of social support as a conduit to CPAP adherence, the role of spousal involvement was not clear, sample sizes in the spousal role studies were small, and CPAP users were men, which reduces generalizability.

Baron et al. (3) used a spousal involvement measure, including positive and negative collaboration and one-sided items one week after beginning CPAP treatment (N=23 married men on CPAP), in addition to an interpersonal measure of supportive behaviors at 3 months to evaluate interpersonal qualities (n=16/23 responded). These investigators found that perceived collaborative involvement was related to greater CPAP adherence at 3 months (p=0.002). These findings are similar to our study in that spousal support, at least for husbands on CPAP, fostered greater adherence during the initial period of treatment.

Our observations and those of Baron et al. (14) fit well with the theories of motivation. The fundamental fact of motivation and adherence in healthcare is that individuals cannot be forced to change their behaviors. The behavior change, in this case the CPAP adherence, may be initiated by extrinsic motivation. External motivation may be rewards, punishments, or pressure from other people, such as family members or healthcare providers. However, extrinsic motivation, such as spousal pressure, is less effective in the long-term. In order to sustain long term behavioral change for CPAP adherence one needs to rely on intrinsic motivation which can be strengthened by examining the decisional balance of the ratio between a patient’s perceived pros and cons for engaging in a health behavior. The decisional balance has been found to be predictive of adherence to treatment in a variety of healthcare settings.

Our study also found increased age as an independent predictor of CPAP adherence at 6-months, yet the results were not significant for long-term adherence. Previous studies have also demonstrated conflicting results on the association between age and CPAP adherence. Sin et al. (15) found that a 10 year increment in age resulted in 0.24 ± 0.11-h increase in CPAP use. Alternatively, McArdle and colleagues (16) found that older patients were less likely to use their CPAP machines. Similarly, Janson et al. (17) found older age to be an independent risk factor for discontinuing CPAP treatment, and this finding was thought to be secondary to nasal, or pharyngeal problems. In another study, Russo-Magno et al. (18) found that adherent patients were younger in age compared to non-adherents, and increasing age made CPAP adherence difficult. Cognitive and physical impairments were thought to be contributing to difficulty with CPAP adherence. Mean age in this cohort was 73 years, which was higher than the mean age in our study. It is possible that these inconsistent associations of age on CPAP adherence may be related to the length of follow-up as well. With longer durations, the effect of time on comorbidities in the elderly may make adherence more difficult.

To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate a gender bias in support for CPAP adherence. While men on CPAP were significantly more likely to adhere with support from their wives, there was no such effect for married women on CPAP, suggesting little to no support from their husbands. Although the effect of gender on CPAP adherence and spousal involvement has not been studied, previous research suggests that women are more likely to be the health caregivers in families, and thus exercise more social control (19). It is the social norm and expectation that women are often involved in their husbands’ health. As indicated in the literature regarding type 2 diabetes (20), male patients and their wives shared an expectation that the wives will be involved in their care while female patients and their husbands did not have similar expectations. We can support this finding in relationship to CPAP adherence.

Not surprisingly, spousal support for adherence did not apply to sham CPAP. This suggests that if an intervention is not having any perceived benefit, spousal involvement will have little impact on adherence. 

There are several limitations to this study. A major limitation is self-reported long term CPAP adherence. Additionally, our study was limited to husbands and wives on CPAP completing the DAS; their respective spouses were not asked about their degree of involvement. Moreover, it is unclear which components of spouse involvement played a role in CPAP adherence. We cannot assume that patients welcome all types of spouse involvement. Spouse involvement may be perceived by patients as control and nagging and may not be advantageous for all patients (21). In the context of chronic illness significant differences are demonstrated across couples in expectations for spouse involvement (20).

Despite these limitations, to our knowledge this is the first study of its type that examined spousal support for both men and women on CPAP supporting generalizability of our findings. Other strengths of this study include a large number of participants across multiple sites, randomized CPAP and Sham CPAP control groups, and objective documentation of CPAP adherence at 6 months.

Dyadic coping has been utilized in other health related interventions and can also be used to improve CPAP adherence. Ye et al. (4) has provided a comprehensive review of dyadic support in CPAP adherence, including methodological considerations, recommendations for future research, and implications for interventions. In tandem with the Ye et al. (4) review, our findings, particularly with respect to the need for spousal support of wives on CPAP, can provide a springboard for future clinical/intervention studies to promote CPAP adherence for men and women, to develop gender-relevant training needs to support their spouse on CPAP, and to determine spousal support activities that are the most efficient at promoting CPAP adherence.



APPLES was funded by contract 5UO1-HL-068060 from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The APPLES pilot studies were supported by grants from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Medicine Education and Research Foundation to Stanford University and by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (N44-NS-002394) to SAM Technology. In addition, APPLES investigators gratefully recognize the vital input and support of Dr. Sylvan Green who died before the results of this trial were analyzed, but was instrumental in its design and conduct.

Administrative Core

Clete A. Kushida, MD, PhD; Deborah A. Nichols, MS; Eileen B. Leary, BA, RPSGT; Pamela R. Hyde, MA; Tyson H. Holmes, PhD; Daniel A. Bloch, PhD; William C. Dement, MD, PhD

Data Coordinating Center

Daniel A. Bloch, PhD; Tyson H. Holmes, PhD; Deborah A. Nichols, MS; Rik Jadrnicek, Microflow, Ric Miller, Microflow Usman Aijaz, MS; Aamir Farooq, PhD; Darryl Thomander, PhD; Chia-Yu Cardell, RPSGT; Emily Kees, Michael E. Sorel, MPH; Oscar Carrillo, RPSGT; Tami Crabtree, MS; Booil Jo, PhD; Ray Balise, PhD; Tracy Kuo, PhD

Clinical Coordinating Center

Clete A. Kushida, MD, PhD, William C. Dement, MD, PhD, Pamela R. Hyde, MA, Rhonda M. Wong, BA, Pete Silva, Max Hirshkowitz, PhD, Alan Gevins, DSc, Gary Kay, PhD, Linda K. McEvoy, PhD, Cynthia S. Chan, BS, Sylvan Green, MD

Clinical Centers

Stanford University 

Christian Guilleminault, MD; Eileen B. Leary, BA, RPSGT; David Claman, MD; Stephen Brooks, MD; Julianne Blythe, PA-C, RPSGT; Jennifer Blair, BA; Pam Simi, Ronelle Broussard, BA; Emily Greenberg, MPH; Bethany Franklin, MS; Amirah Khouzam, MA; Sanjana Behari Black, BS, RPSGT; Viola Arias, RPSGT; Romelyn Delos Santos, BS; Tara Tanaka, PhD

University of Arizona 

Stuart F. Quan, MD; James L. Goodwin, PhD; Wei Shen, MD; Phillip Eichling, MD; Rohit Budhiraja, MD; Charles Wynstra, MBA; Cathy Ward, Colleen Dunn, BS; Terry Smith, BS; Dane Holderman, Michael Robinson, BS; Osmara Molina, BS; Aaron Ostrovsky, Jesus Wences, Sean Priefert, Julia Rogers, BS; Megan Ruiter, BS; Leslie Crosby, BS, RN

St. Mary Medical Center

Richard D. Simon Jr., MD; Kevin Hurlburt, RPSGT; Michael Bernstein, MD; Timothy Davidson, MD; Jeannine Orock-Takele, RPSGT; Shelly Rubin, MA; Phillip Smith, RPSGT; Erica Roth, RPSGT; Julie Flaa, RPSGT; Jennifer Blair, BA; Jennifer Schwartz, BA; Anna Simon, BA; Amber Randall, BA

St. Luke’s Hospital

James K. Walsh, PhD, Paula K. Schweitzer, PhD, Anup Katyal, MD, Rhody Eisenstein, MD, Stephen Feren, MD, Nancy Cline, Dena Robertson, RN, Sheri Compton, RN, Susan Greene, Kara Griffin, MS, Janine Hall, PhD

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Daniel J. Gottlieb, MD, MPH, David P. White, MD, Denise Clarke, BSc, RPSGT, Kevin Moore, BA, Grace Brown, BA, Paige Hardy, MS, Kerry Eudy, PhD, Lawrence Epstein, MD, Sanjay Patel, MD

*Sleep HealthCenters for the use of their clinical facilities to conduct this research

Consultant Teams

Methodology Team: Daniel A. Bloch, PhD, Sylvan Green, MD, Tyson H. Holmes, PhD, Maurice M. Ohayon, MD, DSc, David White, MD, Terry Young, PhD

Sleep-Disordered Breathing Protocol Team: Christian Guilleminault, MD, Stuart Quan, MD, David White, MD

EEG/Neurocognitive Function Team: Jed Black, MD, Alan Gevins, DSc, Max Hirshkowitz, PhD, Gary Kay, PhD, Tracy Kuo, PhD

Mood and Sleepiness Assessment Team: Ruth Benca, MD, PhD, William C. Dement, MD, PhD, Karl Doghramji, MD, Tracy Kuo, PhD, James K. Walsh, PhD

Quality of Life Assessment Team: W. Ward Flemons, MD, Robert M. Kaplan, PhD

APPLES Secondary Analysis-Neurocognitive (ASA-NC) Team: Dean Beebe, PhD, Robert Heaton, PhD, Joel Kramer, PsyD, Ronald Lazar, PhD, David Loewenstein, PhD, Frederick Schmitt, PhD

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

Michael J. Twery, PhD, Gail G. Weinmann, MD, Colin O. Wu, PhD

Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB)

Seven year term: Richard J. Martin, MD (Chair), David F. Dinges, PhD, Charles F. Emery, PhD, Susan M. Harding MD, John M. Lachin, ScD, Phyllis C. Zee, MD, PhD

Other term: Xihong Lin, PhD (2 yrs), Thomas H. Murray, PhD (1 yr)



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Cite as: Batool-Anwar S, Baldwin CM, Fass S, Quan SP. Role of spousal involvement in continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) adherence in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;14(5):213-27. doi: PDF


The Impact of an Online Prematriculation Sleep Course (Sleep 101) on Sleep Knowledge and Behaviors in College Freshmen: A Pilot Study

Stuart F. Quan, M.D.

Pallas Snider Ziporyn, A.B.


Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Boston, MA USA



College students have a high prevalence of poor sleep quality and sleep deficiency which negatively impacts their academic, mental and physical performance. A prematriculation course focused on improving sleep knowledge and behaviors may reduce sleep problems. “Sleep 101” is an online prematriculation course developed to educate incoming college freshmen about the importance of sleep in their lives and to recommend behaviors that will improve their sleep health. In a pilot program, “Sleep 101” was administered to freshman at four universities. The results of a voluntary survey after completion of the course indicated that there was an improvement in knowledge about sleep and the effects of caffeine use, and that students were less likely to drive drowsy and pull “all-nighters,” These pilot data suggest that an internet administered prematriculation course on the importance of sleep and the adoption of healthy sleep behaviors will be effective in reducing sleep problems among college students.


Poor sleep hygiene among college students is common (1). Not surprisingly, there is a high prevalence of sleep problems (2). Sleep deficiency in college students has been linked to poor academic and physical performance, depression, accident risk, excessive caffeine and stimulant medication use, impairment in social relationships and worse overall health (3-5). Unfortunately, unlike the efforts to reduce the use of alcohol and sexual misconduct on campuses, there has been relatively little attention paid to poor sleep health and its impact on individual health and performance.

Although there have been a few studies using in-person educational programs to improve sleep knowledge and behaviors, the impact of these have been inconsistent and in most cases limited to small numbers of students. Over the past 15 years, internet usage among college students has become ubiquitous (6). Thus, a sleep educational program delivered over the internet has the potential to reach large numbers of students. In a recent study, we demonstrated that an internet-based sleep learning module administered as component to an introductory college psychology course resulted in an improvement in sleep knowledge and changes in sleep habits (7). In an effort to provide a more comprehensive sleep educational intervention, we have developed an interactive internet-based sleep course, “Sleep 101.” The course is intended to be administered to matriculating freshmen in order improve their sleep knowledge and to prevent the development of poor sleep habits with their resultant adverse impacts on academic and physical performance, and personal health. This report describes the result of the “Sleep 101” pilot program at four universities.


In the fall of 2016, freshmen at four universities were asked to complete a pilot online educational course, “Sleep 101,” on the importance of obtaining sufficient sleep in their college lives. At two of the universities, the students were informed that completion of the course was required although there was no penalty for non-completion. At the other two universities, the students were required to take the course as part of a freshman seminar series. At the end of the course, a voluntary brief survey was administered to assess students’ opinion of the course, to obtain data regarding ease of course navigation and to identify any “software bugs.” One of the universities is located in the Midwest and has a total enrollment of approximately 6000 undergraduates. The other three universities are located on the East Coast. Two have undergraduate enrollments of approximately 4000 students and the other has an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 6700 students. All are private coeducational institutions.

The content of Sleep 101 includes material related to basic sleep physiology, the impact of sleep on mood, academic and physical performance, the impact of sleep deficiency on driving and personal health, the interactions among sleep and various substances including alcohol and caffeine and a review of common sleep disorders. The curriculum was developed in Articulate Storyline 2 and uses engaging video clips of actual students and sleep experts, interactive activities and text. Selected images from the course can be viewed by clicking the following link [Sleep 101 Slides].At the end of the course, colleges have the option of including custom links to health resources at their university. The program is designed to be completed in 45-60 minutes. A link to the course is available upon request to one of the authors.


The Table shows aggregate and institutional response to four knowledge and behavior questions related to sleep:

  • knowing more about sleep;
  • knowing more about the effects of caffeine;
  • the likelihood of “pulling an all-nighter”;
  • the likelihood of driving drowsy.

In the aggregate results as well as for each institution, over three quarters of the students responded that they knew more about sleep and the effects of caffeine. In addition, nearly half indicated that they were less likely to stay up all night studying. Importantly, 60% of respondents indicated that they were less likely to drive when drowsy. When asked whether the course was easy to use, there were no major navigational issues.


The results of this pilot study demonstrate that “Sleep 101” improved students’ knowledge about sleep and the effects of caffeine. In addition, they were less likely to “pull an all-nighter” and drive when drowsy. The data suggest that our course has the potential to improve the sleep of college students and ultimately their school performance and college experience.

Sleep in college students is notoriously poor. When deciding whether to sleep, study or socialize, most students will choose the latter two activities. The impact of poor sleep is broad. Sleep deficiency negatively affects academic and physical performance. There are impairments in mood and social relationships (8). Furthermore, reduced sleep is a risk factor for cardiac disease, hypertension, stroke and type 2 diabetes (9). To mitigate the effects of sleep deficiency, many students increase caffeine consumption and some use stimulating medications such as amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (Adderall) (10, 11). Both can potentially have an adverse impact on health. Thus, interventions to improve sleep health can potentially have a major impact on the health and well-being of college students.

Our pilot data indicate that a pre-matriculation curriculum focused on good sleep health can have a positive impact by improving knowledge concerning the importance of sleep and reducing behaviors that adversely affect sleep. Thus, the results are consistent with our previous study demonstrating a positive impact on sleep knowledge and behavior in a group of undergraduates enrolled in an introductory psychology course using an internet-based educational module (7).  In addition, Kloss et al reported improvements in sleep hygiene knowledge and sleep quality four weeks after an in-person sleep educational intervention (12). However, not all previous studies have been so encouraging. No difference in sleep hygiene knowledge was noted between sleep education and control groups after six weeks by Brown et al. (13). Similarly, no changes in sleep quality were reported by Clark et al and Lamberti et al. (14, 15). Explanations for these inconsistencies are unclear, but there were significant differences in the curriculum and the methods of content presentation, and the number of participating students was small in most of the studies.

“Sleep 101” was developed as an e-learning course to be taken online. Other sleep education programs in college students used in-person delivery of content (12-15). However, use of the internet will provide much greater scalability than in-person delivery. The latter will be logistically difficult and costly for universities with large enrollments.

Although promising, our data must be interpreted as preliminary. Not all students finished the course and completion of the survey was voluntary as well. Thus, a selection bias towards those who had an interest in improving their sleep was likely. In addition, the pilot universities had relatively small enrollments. Nevertheless, our feedback suggests that a sleep intervention for college students delivered through the internet such as “Sleep 101” is feasible and effective. The results provide an impetus for its dissemination to additional universities nationwide.


“Sleep 101” was developed as a collaboration between the Brigham Sleep Health Institute and the non profit Healthy Hours. Funding was provided by the Snider Family Fund.


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Cite as: Quan SF, Ziporyn PS. The impact of an online prematriculation sleep course (sleep 101) on sleep knowledge and behaviors in college freshmen: a pilot study. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;14(4):159-63. doi: PDF


Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Quality of Life: Comparison of the SAQLI, FOSQ, and SF-36 Questionnaires

Graciela E Silva PhDa

James L Goodwin PhDb

Kimberly D Vana, DNP, RN, FNP-BC, FNP- Cc

Stuart F Quan MDb,d,e,f 

aUniversity of Arizona College of Nursing, Tucson, AZ; bArizona Respiratory Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; cCollege of Nursing & Health Innovation, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ; dCollege of Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; eDivision of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. fDivision of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA


Introduction: The impact of sleep on quality of life (QoL) has been well documented; however, there is a great need for reliable QoL measures for persons with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). We compared the QoL scores between the 36-Item Short Form of the Medical Outcomes Survey (SF-36), Calgary Sleep Apnea Quality of Life Index (SAQLI), and Functional Outcomes Sleep Questionnaire (FOSQ) in persons with OSA.

Methods: A total of 884 participants from the Sleep Heart Health Study second examination, who completed the SF-36, FOSQ, and SAQLI, and in-home polysomnograms, were included. The apnea hypopnea index (AHI) at 4% desaturation was categorized as no OSA (<5 /hour), mild to moderate OSA (5-30 /hour) and severe OSA (>30 /hour). QoL scores for each questionnaire were determined and compared by OSA severity category and by gender.

Results: Participants were 47.6% male, 49.2% (n=435) had no OSA, 43.2% (n=382) had mild to moderate OSA, and 7.6% (n=67) had severe OSA. Participants with severe OSA were significantly older (mean age = 63.7 years, p <.0001), had higher BMI (mean = 34.3 kg/m2, p <.0001) and had lower SF-36 Physical Component scores (PCS) (45.1) than participants with no OSA (48.5) or those with mild to moderate OSA (46.5, p= .006). When analyzed according to gender, no significant differences were found in males for QoL by OSA severity categories. However, females with severe OSA had significantly lower mean scores for the SAQLI (5.4, p= .006), FOSQ (10.9, p= .02), and SF-36 PCS (37.7, p<.0001) compared to females with no OSA (6.0, 11.5, 44.6) and those with mild to moderate OSA (5.9, 11.4, 48, respectively). Females with severe OSA also had significantly higher mean BMI (41.8 kg/m2,) than females with no OSA (26.5 kg/m2) or females with mild to moderate OSA (30.6 kg/m2, p<.0001). The SF-36 PCS and Mental Component Scores (MCS) were correlated with the FOSQ and SAQLI (r=.37 PCS vs FOSQ; r=.31 MCS vs FOSQ; r=.42 PCS vs SAQLI; r=.52 MCS vs SAQLI; and r=.66 FOSQ vs SAQLI, p<.001 for all correlations). Linear regression analyses, adjusting for potential confounders, indicated that the impact of OSA severity on QoL is largely explained by the presence of daytime sleepiness. 

Conclusion: The impact of OSA on QoL differs between genders with a larger effect on females and is largely explained by the presence of daytime sleepiness. Correlations among QoL instruments are not high and various instruments may assess different aspects of QoL.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a highly prevalent condition occurring in as many as 17% and 9% of middle aged males and females, respectively (1). OSA is now recognized as an important risk factor for the development of hypertension and coronary heart disease as well as premature death (2). However, patients frequently present to health care providers with symptoms that are indicative of impairment in their quality of life (QoL). Improvement in QoL is an important determinant of whether patients adhere to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), the most commonly prescribed treatment for OSA. Additionally, measurement of QoL is one of the quality metrics recently developed for use in clinical practice (3) thus increasing the importance of evaluating tools used to assess QoL in OSA.

A variety of tools to measure QoL have been utilized in epidemiologic studies and clinical trials of OSA. The most common general QoL instrument used has been the Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form Health Survey SF-36 (4). More recently, two sleep specific QoL questionnaires have been developed, the Functional Outcomes of Sleep Questionnaire (FOSQ) (5) and the Sleep Apnea Quality of Life Inventory (SAQLI) (6). Whether these sleep specific QoL instruments are more sensitive in those with OSA than general QoL questionnaires is not clear. Furthermore, there have been few comparisons of the FOSQ to the SAQLI with respect to their sensitivity in those with OSA and whether QoL differs between males and females. Using data from a large cohort study, the purposes of these analyses were to compare these instruments to each other, to assess whether they were able to detect differences in QoL among groups with different severities of OSA and to determine whether there were differences between genders.


The Sleep Heart Health Study (SHHS) is a prospective multicenter cohort study designed to investigate the relationship between OSA and cardiovascular diseases in the United States. Details of the study design have been published elsewhere (7). Briefly, initial baseline recruitment began in 1995, enrolling 6,441 subjects, 40 years of age and older, from several ongoing geographically distinct cardiovascular and respiratory disease cohorts who were initially assembled between 1976 and 1995 (8). These cohorts included the Offspring Cohort and the Omni Cohort of the Framingham Heart Study in Massachusetts; the Hagerstown, MD, and Minneapolis, MN, sites of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study; the Hagerstown, MD, Pittsburgh, PA, and Sacramento, CA, sites of the Cardiovascular Health Study; 3 hypertension cohorts (Clinic, Worksite, and Menopause) in New York City; the Tucson Epidemiologic Study of Airways Obstructive Diseases and the Health and Environment Study; and the Strong Heart Study of American Indians in Oklahoma, Arizona, North Dakota, and South Dakota. A SHHS follow-up examination took place between February 2000 and May 2003, enrolling 4,586 of the original participants who had a repeat polysomnogram in addition to completing questionnaires and undergoing other measurements. The present study focused on 884 participants from the Tucson and Framingham sites of the Sleep Heart Health Study second examination in whom data were available from the sleep habits questionnaire, all quality of life questionnaires, and in-home polysomnograms. Data was limited to these sites because administration of the FOSQ was not done at the other field centers. 

The SHHS was approved by the respective institutional review boards for human subjects research, and informed written consent was obtained from all subjects at the time of their enrollment into each stage of the study.


Participants underwent overnight in-home polysomnograms using the Compumedics Portable PS-2 System (Abbottsville, Victoria, Australia) administered by trained technicians (9). Briefly, after a home visit was scheduled, the Sleep Health Questionnaire, SF-36, SAQLI, and FOSQ questionnaires generally were mailed 1 to 2 weeks prior to the in-home polysomnography appointment. Each participant was asked to complete the questionnaire before the home visit, at which time the questionnaires were collected and verified for completeness. The home visits were performed by two-person, mixed-sex teams in visits that lasted 1.5 to 2 hours. There was emphasis on making the night of the polysomnographic assessment as representative as possible of a usual night of sleep. Participants were asked to schedule the visit so that it would occur approximately two hours prior to their usual bedtime. Participants’ weekday or weekend bedtime routines were encouraged to be consistent with the day of the week that the visits were made.

The SHHS recording montage consisted of electroencephalogram (C4/A1 and C3/A2), right and left electrooculogram, a bipolar submental electromyogram, thoracic and abdominal excursions (inductive plethysmography bands), airflow (detected by a nasal-oral thermocouple [Protec, Woodinville, WA]), oximetry (finger pulse oximetry [Nonin, Minneapolis, MN]), electrocardiogram and heart rate (using a bipolar electrocardiogram lead), body position (using a mercury gauge sensor), and ambient light (on/off, by a light sensor secured to the recording garment). Sensors were placed, and equipment was calibrated during an evening home visit by a certified technician. After technicians retrieved the equipment, the data, stored in real time on PCMCIA cards, were downloaded to the computers of each respective clinical site, locally reviewed, and forwarded to a central reading center (Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH). Comprehensive descriptions of polysomnography scoring and quality-assurance procedures have been previously published (9, 10). In brief, sleep was scored according to guidelines developed by Rechtschaffen and Kales (11, 12). Strict protocols were maintained to ensure comparability among centers and technicians. Intra-scorer and inter-scorer reliabilities were high (10). As in previous analyses of SHHS data, an apnea was defined as a complete or almost complete cessation of airflow, as measured by the amplitude of the thermocouple signal, lasting at least 10 seconds. Hypopneas were identified if the amplitude of a measure of flow or volume (detected by the thermocouple or thorax or abdominal inductance band signals) was reduced discernibly (at least 25% lower than baseline breathing) for at least 10 seconds and did not meet the criteria for apnea. For this study, only apneas or hypopneas associated with a 4% or greater oxyhemoglobin desaturation were considered in the calculation of the apnea hypopnea index (AHI, apneas plus hypopneas per hour of total sleep time).

Sleep Habits Questionnaire and Covariates

Participants completed the SHHS Sleep Habits Questionnaire (13). The Sleep Habits Questionnaire contained questions regarding sleep habits. Height and weight were measured directly to determine body mass index (BMI, kg/m2). Sex and ethnicity were derived from data obtained from the SHHS parent cohorts. Participants answered yes or no to having a healthcare provider diagnosing them as having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, or asthma.


The level of daytime sleepiness was determined using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), a validated 8-item questionnaire that measures subjective sleepiness (14). Subjects were asked to rate how likely they are to fall asleep in different situations. Each question was answered on a scale of 0 to 3. ESS values ranged from 0 (unlikely to fall asleep in any situation) to 24 (high chance of falling asleep in all 8 situations). Mean ESS scores between 14 and 16 have been reported for patients with OSA (14, 15). Scores of 11 or greater are considered to represent an abnormal degree of daytime sleepiness (16). Sleepiness was defined as an ESS of at least 10.

Quality of Life Measures

Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36). Quality of life was evaluated using the Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form Health survey (SF-36) (4). The SF-36 is a multipurpose self-administered health survey consisting of 36 questions divided into 8 individual domains: (1) physical functioning (limitations in physical activity because of health problems), (2) role physical (limitations in usual role activities because of physical health problems), (3) bodily pain, (4) general health perceptions; (5) vitality (energy and fatigue), (6) social functioning (limitation in social activities because of physical or emotional problems), (7) role emotional (limitation in usual role activities because of emotional problems), and (8) general mental health. In addition, the 8 scales are used to form 2 distinct high-order summary scales: the physical component summary (PCS) and the mental component summary (MCS) (17). The PCS includes the physical functioning, role physical, bodily pain, and general health scales, and the MCS includes the vitality, social functioning, role emotional, and general mental health scales. The raw scores for each subscale and the 2 summary measures are standardized, weighted, and scored according to specific algorithms. The scores for the multifunction item scales and the summary measures range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating better quality of life. For the present study, we use only the PCS and MCS scales.

Functional Outcomes Sleep Questionnaire (FOSQ). The FOSQ was developed as a self-report instrument to assess the disorders of sleepiness on quality of life. It consists of 30 items with 5 factor-based subscales: activity level, vigilance, intimacy and sexual relationships, general productivity and social outcome. A mean weighted item score is obtained for each subscale. The subscales are summed to produce a global score (5). In SHHS, questions related to sexual intimacy were omitted because there were concerns that some participants would find these embarrassing or offensive.

Sleep Apnea Quality of Life Index (SAQLI). The SAQLI was developed as a sleep apnea specific quality of life instrument (6). It is a 35 item instrument that captures the adverse impact of sleep apnea on 4 domains: daily functioning, social interactions, emotional functioning, and symptoms. Items are scored on a 7-point scale with “all of the time” and “not at all” being the most extreme responses. Item and domain scores are averaged to yield a composite total score between 1 and 7. Higher scores represent better quality of life. In SHHS, the short form of the SAQLI was administered, because it allowed for self-completion by the participants (18).

Statistical Analysis

Differences in proportions for descriptive characteristics between OSA severity categories, and categorical variables were analyzed using Chi-square tests with 2 degrees of freedom. Fisher’s exact test was used when the expected frequency was less than 5 in any cell. One-way analyses of variance (ANOVA) were used to compare differences in mean values for continuous variables (BMI, total sleep time, SAQLI, FOSQ, SF-36 MCS, and SF-36 PCS) by OSA severity categories and by these categories separately for males and females. Pearson’s correlations were used to test for correlation coefficients between the four quality of life scales, SAQLI, FOSQ, SF-36 MCS, and SF-36 PCS.

Separate multivariate linear regression models were fitted to evaluate scores from each of the four QoL scales by OSA categories for males and females. Potential confounders (age, race, COPD, chronic bronchitis, ESS and asthma) were evaluated and adjusted for in the models; only those variables with significant coefficients were kept in the models. Thus, OSA severity, ESS, and asthma were the only variables retained in the final models. All statistical tests were performed using statistical software (Stata SE, version 13.0 for Windows; Stata Corp; College Station, TX) and a significance level of 0.05.


Participants were 47.6% male and 52.4% female, 49.2% (n=435) had no OSA, 43.2% (n=382) had mild to moderate OSA, and 7.6% (n=67) had severe OSA. Approximately 21% of participants with mild to moderate OSA and 39% of those with severe OSA reported excessive daytime sleepiness (ESS >10) (Table 1).

Participants with severe OSA were significantly older (mean age = 63.7 years, p <.0001), had higher BMI (mean = 34.3 kg/m2, p <.0001) and had lower SF-36 PCS scores (45.1, p= .006) than participants with no OSA or those with mild to moderate OSA. There was also a trend towards lower scores on the MCS of the SF-36, the SAQLI, and the FOSQ (Table 2).

When analyzed according to gender, no significant differences were found in males for QoL by OSA severity categories (Table 3).

Males with severe OSA had significantly higher BMI (mean 31.9, p<.0001) than males with no OSA or males with mild to moderate OSA. However, as shown in Table 4, females with severe OSA had significantly lower mean scores for the SAQLI (5.4, p= .006), FOSQ (10.9, p= .02), and SF-36 PCS (37.7, p<.0001) compared to females with no OSA and those with mild to moderate OSA.

Females with severe OSA also had significantly higher BMI (mean 41.8, p<.0001) than females with no OSA or females with mild to moderate OSA.

As shown in Table 5, comparisons between the QoL measures showed small correlations between the FOSQ and the SF-36 MCS (r=.31, p < .001) and the SF-36 PCS (r=.37, p <.001), and medium correlations between the SAQLI and the SF-36 MCS (r=0.52, p <.001) and the SF-36 PCS (r=.42, p < .001).

The correlation between the SAQLI and FOSQ was 0.66, p <.001, and the correlation between SF-36 MCS and SF-36 PCS was -.024, however this was not significant (p = .142). In addition, ESS scores were inversely correlated with the SAQLI (r = -.36), FOSQ (r = -.43), MCS (r = -.17), and PCS (r = -.16) (data not shown).

Because categorical analyses showed no difference for males in QoL scores, we, therefore, ran linear regression models separately for females and males (Table 6).



In these analyses using a general (SF-36) and two sleep specific QoL assessment tools (FOSQ and SAQLI), we found that QoL was reduced in those with severe OSA; substantial differences were not apparent among participants with mild to moderate OSA and those with no OSA. However, there were significant gender disparities. Females with severe OSA demonstrated a substantial reduction in QoL with all instruments, but there was a lack of differences among males by OSA severity. The reductions in QoL were explained primarily by the presence of sleepiness. Furthermore, correlations among QoL questionnaires were modest at best, indicating that they assess different QoL domains.

When males and females were analyzed together in our study, only the PCS of the SF-36 showed a significant reduction in QoL in participants with OSA, but this was limited solely to participants with severe OSA. Additional studies also have found lower QoL only in those with severe OSA (19, 20). Moreover, other studies have failed to find any differences in QoL among participants with a broad spectrum of OSA severity (21-23). In one of these studies, Lee and colleagues (22) found that the AHI was not associated with differences in the PCS or MCS of the SF-36 in a large group of patients seen in a sleep clinic. In their study, other factors, such as age, gender, minimum oxygen saturation, sleepiness, and depression were associated with the PCS or MCS scores. Our study also found a strong trend between sleepiness and QoL scores for females and males. Similarly, in a smaller study, Lee et al. (22) did not find differences in the SAQLI among OSA patients of different severities. Our data also are consistent with a previous analysis from the first examination of SHHS in which severe OSA was associated with worse QoL on most subscales of the SF-36, but only the vitality subscale was reflective of poorer QoL in participants with OSA of less severity. In contrast, even mild OSA was associated with reduced QoL in comparison to no OSA among the middle-aged males and females of the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort (24). However, our cohort was older than participants in the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort and only a small sample from the SHHS was analyzed in the present study. Thus, age and other demographic differences among the cohorts may provide explanations for these discrepancies. Nevertheless, despite the absence of large cross-sectional differences in QoL as a function of OSA severity, in most studies, the SF-36, SAQLI, and FOSQ have been shown to be sensitive to changes in QoL after OSA treatment.

When analysis of our data was performed separately according to gender, we observed that the reduction in QoL with severe OSA was limited to females irrespective of the QoL instrument. Other studies (22) also have noted that QoL in participants with OSA is worse in women. However, in a study of a large cohort of males, Appleton et al.,(25) found that increasing AHI was associated with lower QoL on the SF-36, but only in those less than 69 years of age. The median age of the SHHS cohort is 60 years with substantial numbers of participants older than 70 years.  Thus, our results and those of Appleton et al. (25) may not be discrepant necessarily.

Excessive daytime sleepiness is one of the most common symptoms in OSA, and sleepiness can have a profound negative impact on QoL. Thus, not surprisingly, our multivariate analyses demonstrated that the negative impact of severe OSA was explained primarily by the presence of sleepiness. Our finding is consistent with the findings of some, (19, 22, 23, 26) but not all previous studies (27). The explanation for these inconsistent findings is not readily apparent, but possibilities include whether study populations were recruited from the general population or clinic, as well as whether the cohorts had other co-morbidities that would impact QoL. A differential perception of sleepiness between males and females offers a possible explanation of the greater impact of OSA on QoL in the latter. However, this assertion seems unlikely inasmuch as previous studies indicate females with OSA are more likely to report fatigue rather than sleepiness (28-30).

We observed that correlations among the SF-36, SAQLI, and FOSQ were relatively weak to moderate. Our results are consistent with the few studies that have done similar comparisons. In a Spanish multicenter study (21), correlations of the FOSQ and several scales of the SF-36 with the 4 domains of the SAQLI were poor to moderate. They ranged from r=.179 between the FOSQ and SAQLI Emotional Functioning domain to r=.579 for the SF-36 Vitality and SAQLI Daily Functioning domain. In a Polish study (31), the correlation between the SF-36 and the FOSQ was r=.46 and between the SF-36 and the SAQLI was r=.47. Other studies have compared the SF-36 to other general QoL instruments in patients with OSA, with some, but not all, demonstrating reasonable correspondence (32, 33).  Considering our results with other studies, various instruments may sample different aspects of QoL. Care should be exercised when selecting a tool to assess health outcomes in OSA.

There are several important limitations to our findings. First, the SHHS cohort was recruited from participants enrolled in other longitudinal studies, many of whom were long-time participants. These individuals may represent a group of survivors who would generally have better QoL regardless of OSA-severity status. Second, as a group, the SHHS cohort is older (mean age = 61.6 years) and may not be representative of the US adult population. Third, SHHS is a general population cohort, and thus, unlike a clinical cohort, some did not have symptoms of OSA. Finally, severity of OSA may not be best reflected by the AHI. Other markers of severity such as amount of oxygen desaturation or degree of sleep fragmentation may be better surrogates to show differences in QoL. Nevertheless, despite these limitations, our analyses have some unique qualities such as a well-characterized, racially and ethnically diverse cohort, use of home-based polysomnography to assess the severity of OSA, and data related to QoL derived from 3 different instruments.

In conclusion, in a middle-aged to elderly cohort, QoL is poorer only in females with severe OSA. To a large extent, these findings can be explained by the presence of daytime sleepiness. Correlations among 3 commonly used QoL instruments used in persons with OSA were weak to moderate, suggesting that each samples different aspects of QoL. Therefore, care should be exercised in selecting a QoL tool for documenting health care outcomes for research or clinical care.


The Sleep Heart Health Study (SHHS) acknowledges the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC), the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS), the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), the Cornell/Mt. Sinai Worksite and Hypertension Studies, the Strong Heart Study (SHS), the Tucson Epidemiologic Study of Airways Obstructive Diseases (TES) and the Tucson Health and Environment Study (H&E) for allowing their cohort members to be part of the SHHS and for permitting data acquired by them to be used in the study.  SHHS is particularly grateful to the members of these cohorts who agreed to participate in SHHS as well. SHHS further recognizes all of the investigators and staff who have contributed to its success. A list of SHHS investigators, staff and their participating institutions is available on the SHHS website,

The opinions expressed in the paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Indian Health Service.

This work was supported by HL U01HL53940 (University of Washington), U01HL53941 (Boston University), U01HL53938 and U01HL53938-07S (University of Arizona), U01HL53916 (University of California, Davis), U01HL53934 (University of Minnesota), U01HL53931 (New York University), U01HL53937 and U01HL64360 (Johns Hopkins University), U01HL63463 (Case Western Reserve University), and U01HL63429 (Missouri Breaks Research).

Dr. Silva was supported by NHLBI grant HL 062373-05A2. 


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Cite as: Silva GE, Goodwin JL, Vana KD, Quan SF. Obstructive sleep apnea and quality of life: comparison of the SAQLI, FOSQ, and SF-36 questionnaires. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2016;13(3):137-49. doi: PDF