Wearing compression stockings during the day may slightly improve sleep apnea at night, a small study suggests.
The benefits of the knee-high socks, however, failed to convince sleep specialists that they’d hit on a new cure for obstructive sleep apnea, which is a potentially serious condition.
In obstructive sleep apnea, breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep because the airway becomes narrowed or blocked. The condition affects 12 million Americans, raising their risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat and diabetes. It also raises their risk of being sleepy and fatigued during the day, because they sleep poorly at night.
The gold-standard therapy for obstructive sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, device.
In the new study, 22 patients with obstructive sleep apnea who wore compression stockings during the day for two weeks saw their frequency of apneas decrease by 27 percent, compared to 23 patients who didn’t wear the stockings, Dr. T. Douglas Bradley and colleagues report in Sleep Medicine.
The authors call the 27 percent reduction “modest.” They say it reduced patients’ sleep apnea “from the severe to the moderate range.”