Sleep-related breathing disorders (SBDs) include obstructive apnoea, central apnoea and sleep-related hypoventilation. These nocturnal events have the potential to increase pulmonary arterial pressure (PAP) during sleep but also in the waking state. “Pure” obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) is responsible for a small increase in PAP whose clinical impact has not been demonstrated. By contrast, in obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS) or overlap syndrome (the association of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)), nocturnal respiratory events contribute to the development of pulmonary hypertension (PH), which is often severe. In the latter circumstances, treatment of SBDs is essential in order to improve pulmonary haemodynamics.
Patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) or chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) are at risk of developing SBDs. Obstructive and central apnoea, as well as a worsening of ventilation–perfusion mismatch, can be observed during sleep. There should be a strong suspicion of SBDs in such a patient population; however, the precise indications for sleep studies and the type of recording remain to be specified. The diagnosis of OSAS in patients with PAH or CTEPH should encourage treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). The presence of isolated nocturnal hypoxaemia should also prompt the initiation of long-term oxygen therapy. These treatments are likely to avoid worsening of PH; however, it is prudent not to treat central apnoea and Cheyne–Stokes respiration (CSR) with adaptive servo-ventilation in patients with chronic right-heart failure because of a potential risk of serious adverse effects from such treatment.
In this review we will consider the current knowledge of the consequences of SBDs on pulmonary haemodynamics in patients with and without chronic respiratory disease (group 3 of the clinical classification of PH) and the effect of treatments of respiratory events during sleep on PH. The prevalence and consequences of SBDs in PAH and CTEPH (groups 1 and 4 of the clinical classification of PH, respectively), as well as therapeutic options, will also be discussed.