Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that causes a person to stop breathing repeatedly while they sleep. This happens when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open. People with sleep apnea may wake up tired and have difficulty concentrating during the day. They may also snore loudly or gasp for air during sleep. Sleep apnea can be caused by obesity, alcohol use, and smoking. Treatment options include lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and avoiding alcohol, and using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to keep the airway open during sleep.
Research studies suggest that certain chemicals in the body, like noradrenaline and acetylcholine, play important roles in controlling the muscles in the throat that help us breathe. A clinical trial investigated whether a medication called reboxetine, which affects noradrenaline levels in the body, could reduce OSA severity on its own or in combination with another medication called oxybutynin, which affects acetylcholine levels.
Sixteen people with OSA participated in the study and received different doses of reboxetine, oxybutynin, or a placebo. Reboxetine alone reduced the number of breathing interruptions by 5.4 events per hour, and the combination of reboxetine and oxybutynin did not provide additional benefits. Reboxetine also improved the levels of oxygen in the blood and the stability of the upper airway during sleep.
These findings provide new insights into how medication can be used to treat OSA and may inform future developments in pharmacotherapy. The study suggests that reboxetine, which affects noradrenaline levels, can reduce OSA severity without needing additional medication.