Sleep researchers have not worked out exactly how we develop obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). There are several risk factors and anatomical reasons involved. Some researchers have postulated that OSA may be worsened by fluid shifting from the legs to the neck area overnight. In other words, because the legs are generally at the level of the heart while in bed, fluid from the legs moves into the neck area, causing swelling in the upper airway. This narrows the upper airway enough to restrict airflow.
In this article in the Journal Sleep, researchers studied older and younger men to see if giving them IV salt water impacted the level of sleep apnea. The study was limited to men who were not obese and had either no or non-severe OSA. They did sleep studies after giving them the IV salt water. The results showed that the IV salt water worsened OSA significantly in older men, but not younger men. The reason for this was not clear from the study. However, the results have important implications for older men undergoing surgery, since IV fluids are commonly given during and right after surgery.