Gender differences in the association of sleep apnea and inflammation

Jordan Gaines, Alexandros N. Vgontzas, Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, Ilia Kritikou, Maria Basta, Edward O. Bixler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Over the last 15. years, many studies have established an association of sleep apnea with inflammation and metabolic aberrations. However, no controlled studies have examined potential gender effects in this association. We recruited 120 middle-aged, predominantly non-obese mild-to-moderate sleep apneics and controls (62 males, 58 females). All participants underwent a clinical history, physical examination, and 1-night 8-h polysomnography recording and provided a single fasting blood sample for assessment of interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 (TNFR1), C-reactive protein (CRP), leptin, and adiponectin levels. Among non-sleep apneics, females had higher levels of TNFR1 (p= 0.01), CRP (p= 0.005), leptin (p<. 0.001), and adiponectin (p<. 0.001) compared to males, independent of age and body mass index. When analyzed separately by gender, sleep apneic men had elevated TNFR1 (p= 0.04), CRP (p= 0.06) and IL-6 (p= 0.11) relative to control men; in sleep apneic females, only CRP was elevated (p= 0.04). Furthermore, CRP was associated with apnea severity in a dose-response manner (p-linear. = 0.04 in both genders) and was independently associated with comorbid hypertension in apnea (p-linear. = 0.005 for women; p-linear. = 0.09 for men). In conclusion, although women have naturally higher levels of inflammatory and metabolic markers than men, sleep apneic men appear to have a more severe inflammatory profile compared to women. Our findings suggest that these markers should be analyzed and interpreted separately in men and women, and that a single measure of plasma CRP appears to be a clinically-useful marker of apnea severity and comorbid cardiovascular morbidity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-217
Number of pages7
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Gender differences in the association of sleep apnea and inflammation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this