CPAP Treatment For Sleep Apnea Improves Men's Golf Performance: Study

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Well this is one way to up your golf game.

A small new study suggests men can improve their golf performance by getting their obstructive sleep apnea treated with continuous positive airway pressure, commonly known as CPAP.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where a person has temporary pauses in breathing during sleep, leading to disrupted sleep and daytime fatigue; it is also associated with a number of health ills, including obesity, heart risks and even early death.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, included 24 men with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea who had an average age of 55. Half of the men were assigned to undergo CPAP for six months, while the others did not. All of the study participants maintained a handicap with the Golf Handicap and Information Network, part of the Unites States Golf Association. The researchers took note of the participants' handicap index at the beginning of the study and at the end of the study (determined after playing 20 rounds of golf).

In golf, a handicap -- defined as the average number of strokes shot over or under par, over time -- is often used as a reference of a player's skill level; the lower the handicap, the better a person is at golf.

The researchers found that men who received the CPAP therapy not only had reduced daytime sleepiness and better sleep at night, but also decreased their average handicap index by 11 percent.

Plus, among the men whose handicap index was 12 or less, the average handicap index decreased by 31.5 percent.

"The degree of improvement was most substantial in the better golfers who have done a superior job of managing the technical and mechanical aspects of golf," study researcher Dr. Marc Benton, a senior partner at Atlantic Sleep & Pulmonary Associates and medical director of SleepWell Centers of NJ, said in a statement. "With the cognitive enhancement afforded by successful treatment of their sleep apnea, they saw measurable improvement early and more significantly than those who were less skilled."

Researchers noted that golf is most popular among men between ages 40 and 70 in the U.S., which is also the age group most affected by obstructive sleep apnea.

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