Sleep Apnea Research

As part of our broader commitment to advancing sleep health, the NHLBI leads and supports sleep apnea research. The research we support has helped establish the importance of getting enough good quality sleep. We have also helped define the links between sleep apnea and other serious health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. We continue to support research to develop new and improved treatments for sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.

NHLBI research that really made a difference

  • Visit Sleep Health to learn more about NHLBI sleep research and find videos and fact sheets.

    The NHLBI supported the Apnea Positive Pressure Long-Term Efficacy Study (APPLES). The study found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is an effective treatment for sleep apnea and helped establish CPAP as a leading treatment option for sleep apnea. The study results led to many other studies to improve sleep apnea treatment.
  • An NHLBI partnership with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) discovered that sleep apnea affects more than 80% of people who have obesity and type 2 diabetes. The study also found that weight loss reduced sleep apnea better than a diabetes education program. These findings have led to additional study partnerships to determine whether sleep apnea affects how well medicine can control the blood sugar of people with diabetes.

Current research funded by the NHLBI

The NHLBI Division of Lung Diseases is home to the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, which supports research on sleep and sleep disorders.

Current research on sleep apnea treatment

Positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy is a common treatment for sleep apnea. Yet, many people with sleep apnea find it difficult to stick to PAP therapy long-term. The NHLBI supports research that promotes healthy lifestyles as well as research to develop new sleep apnea treatments, such as pharmacotherapy and innovative devices to meet individual needs of people with sleep apnea. We also fund research to find new ways to help people who have sleep apnea stick to their PAP treatment plans.

Learn more about NHLBI’s research on sleep apnea treatments at NIH RePORTER.

Current research on sleep apnea in women

The NHLBI supports research to understand how sleep apnea affects the health and well-being of women.

  • The NHLBI partnered with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to fund the NuMoM2B study. This study found that sleep deficiency and mild sleep apnea in pregnant women increase the risk of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia and diabetes. Currently, the NuMoM2B study is exploring whether treating sleep apnea during pregnancy lowers these risks.
  • The NHLBI supports research to learn more about how sleep apnea and obesity affect the health of both a mother and her unborn baby during pregnancy.
  • The NHLBI supports the Women's Health Initiative Sleep Hypoxia Effects on Resilience (WHISPER) study, which is examining whether breathing problems during sleep can raise the risk of heart disease, cancer, and problems with memory and decision-making in older women.

Find more NHLBI-funded studies on sleep apnea in women at NIH RePORTER.

Current research on causes and complications of sleep apnea

NHLBI-supported research is helping scientists and doctors understand the causes of sleep apnea.

  • We fund projects exploring the links between sleep apnea and other serious health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
  • We support NIH-wide collaborations to determine how sleep apnea affects the health and quality of life of people who have Down syndrome.

These studies may help develop new treatments for sleep apnea to prevent complications.

Find more NHLBI-funded studies on the causes of sleep apnea at NIH RePORTER.

Sleep apnea research labs at the NHLBI

The Laboratory of Systems Genetics, within the Systems Biology Center, is focused on exploring how our genes control our sleep patterns. Scientists in this lab are also studying how factors such as diet, temperature, medicines, and loneliness can influence sleep.


An NHLBI-funded study has shed light on how our genes help control our blood oxygen levels during sleep. Read about this study.

Related sleep apnea programs and guidelines

  • The NIH Sleep Research Plan was recently updated to focus on sleep and circadian research, including how sleep disorders and poor sleep affect women’s health and other health conditions.
  • The National Sleep Research Resource is an NHLBI-funded resource for the sleep science community. It offers researchers free access to large collections of data from completed studies.
  • For almost 30 years, NHLBI’s National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR) has supported and coordinated sleep science and disorders research, training, and awareness across NIH, other federal agencies, and outside organizations.

Learn more about the NCSDR’s research: Celebrating 25 Years of Research to Promote Healthy Sleep.

Explore more NHLBI research on Sleep Apnea

The sections above provide you with the highlights of NHLBI-supported research on Sleep Apnea. You can explore the full list of NHLBI-funded studies on the NIH RePORTER.

To find more studies:

  • Type your search words into the Quick Search box and press enter. 
  • Check Active Projects if you want current research.
  • Select the Agencies arrow, then the NIH arrow, then check NHLBI.

If you want to sort the projects by budget size from the biggest to the smallest click on the FY Total Cost by IC column heading.

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