Snoring heavily almost doubles the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, research shows.
Researchers found patients diagnosed with the sleep apnoea were nearly twice as likely to suffer the disease.
The discovery, which comes from research carried out in Taiwan, is a surprise as rheumatoid arthritis is thought to be triggered when something goes wrong with the immune system.
The same study found a similar increase in the risk of other so-called autoimmune disorders, where the body's defences start to attack healthy tissues.
Scientists said they believe the explanation lies in the fact that chronic sleep apnoea can lead to inflammation in blood vessels, which may act as a catalyst for arthritis.
Although previous studies have suggested sleep apnoea may raise the risk of heart attacks, the latest investigation is the first to show a link with arthritis.
Tens of thousands of Irish people suffer from sleep apnoea, though many more may remain undiagnosed.