Effects of sleep apnea on nocturnal free fatty acids in subjects with heart failure

Jonathan C. Jun, Luciano F. Drager, Samer S. Najjar, Stephen S. Gottlieb, Cynthia D. Brown, Philip L. Smith, Alan R. Schwartz, Vsevolod Y. Polotsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Scopus citations


Study Objectives: Sleep apnea is common in patients with congestive heart failure, and may contribute to the progression of underlying heart disease. Cardiovascular and metabolic complications of sleep apnea have been attributed to intermittent hypoxia. Elevated free fatty acids (FFA) are also associated with the progression of metabolic, vascular, and cardiac dysfunction. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of intermittent hypoxia on FFA levels during sleep in patients with heart failure. Design and Interventions: During sleep, frequent blood samples were examined for FFA in patients with stable heart failure (ejection fraction < 40%). In patients with severe sleep apnea (apnea-hypopnea index = 65.5 ± 9.1 events/h; average low SpO 2 = 88.9%), FFA levels were compared to controls with milder sleep apnea (apnea-hypopnea index = 15.4 ± 3.7 events/h; average low SpO2 = 93.6%). In patients with severe sleep apnea, supplemental oxygen at 2-4 liters/min was administered on a subsequent night to eliminate hypoxemia. Measurements and Results: Prior to sleep onset, controls and patients with severe apnea exhibited a similar FFA level. After sleep onset, patients with severe sleep apnea exhibited a marked and rapid increase in FFA relative to control subjects. This increase persisted throughout NREM and REM sleep exceeding serum FFA levels in control subjects by 0.134 mmol/L (P = 0.0038). Supplemental oxygen normalized the FFA profile without affecting sleep architecture or respiratory arousal frequency. Conclusion: In patients with heart failure, severe sleep apnea causes surges in nocturnal FFA that may contribute to the accelerated progression of underlying heart disease. Supplemental oxygen prevents the FFA elevation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1207-1213
Number of pages7
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Apnea
  • Free fatty acids
  • Heart failure
  • Intermittent hypoxia
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)

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    Jun, J. C., Drager, L. F., Najjar, S. S., Gottlieb, S. S., Brown, C. D., Smith, P. L., Schwartz, A. R., & Polotsky, V. Y. (2011). Effects of sleep apnea on nocturnal free fatty acids in subjects with heart failure. Sleep, 34(9), 1207-1213. https://doi.org/10.5665/SLEEP.1240