Typically when we test how sleep apnea treatment improves lives, we test using discreet measurements. We test using questionnaires or blood pressure monitors, which only really account for a single parameter. What if we could find an activity that incorporates BOTH cognitive (mental) and motor (physical) skills? What if this activity happened to be something very enjoyable? What if this activity was golf?
That’s right – a group of researchers set out to see if golf game could improve after initiating sleep apnea treatment (continuous positive airway pressure – CPAP). The measured variable here was handicap index, which, ideally, is very low. In this study, an experimental group and a control group were both selected. The control group did not suffer from sleep apnea, and the experimental group did suffer from sleep apnea and was instructed to begin CPAP use. All subjects reported their golf scores (and other measures, including sleepiness) prior to beginning the study. The study entailed playing 20 rounds of golf and recording the scores after each game.
When comparing handicap index improvement between the control and experimental group after 20 games, the CPAP treatment group was shown to have improved their game significantly. They also showed decreased measurements of sleepiness and a decrease in their sleep apnea severity, showing that the CPAP treatment was indeed working. Interestingly, the golfers who initially had the best performance had the greatest amount of improvement after treatment. The control group did not show improvement in any of these measures1.
This certainly is exciting news for anyone with untreated sleep apnea who wishes to impress some friends during the next round of golf! By including a control group in this study, the researchers ensured that golf performance did not improve simply by practicing since there was no improvement in the non-sleep apnea group. This study adds some interesting knowledge to the literature because golf incorporates a number of different mental and physical faculties (hand-eye coordination, critical thinking, planning, etc.) in a real-life situation. So next time you blow it during a game of golf, try to think of how you slept the night before!
Pre-publication: Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome with Nasal Positive Airway Pressure Improves Golf Performance.