Obstructive sleep apnea and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are common conditions that each affect millions of Americans. Both conditions affect a person’s breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when you temporarily stop breathing repeatedly in your sleep. COPD is a group of lung conditions (most commonly bronchitis and emphysema) that can impact airflow and make it difficult to breathe.
While these are two separate conditions, it is estimated that between 10-15% of patients with COPD also have sleep apnea. When a person has both conditions, it is referred to as overlap syndrome.
What Causes Overlap Syndrome?
If you have sleep apnea you might be wondering if that can cause COPD or vice versa. However, there does not appear to be a direct causal relationship between the conditions. Rather it seems that most cases of overlap syndrome happen by chance, as both sleep apnea and COPD are common. However, there are some links between the two conditions.
Inflammation occurs in both sleep apnea and COPD. The inflammation caused by one disorder can worsen the inflammation from the other, leading to more pronounced symptoms.
Smoking is another common link found in sleep apnea and COPD. Cigarette smoke triggers inflammation, and smoking puts you at a greater risk of developing both conditions.
Is Overlap Syndrome Dangerous?
Overlap syndrome can put you at risk for developing other health issues by causing inflammation and lowering your blood oxygen levels. These include:
- Sleep problems like daytime fatigue, frequently waking up at night and excessive snoring
- Abnormal heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Heart failure
What Should You Do if You Think You Might Have Overlap Syndrome?
If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, COPD or both, you need to make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible. Depending on your symptoms they will run tests to check your:
- Blood oxygen levels
- Lung function
- Sleep stages, movements, and breathing patterns
How to Treat Overlap Syndrome
Treating overlap syndrome involves treating sleep apnea and COPD separately. There are a variety of different treatments and lifestyle recommendations your doctor or sleep specialist might make to help improve each condition. Some treatment options include:
- Use of a CPAP machine to make it easier to breathe in your sleep.
- Oxygen therapy
- Bronchodilators or inhalers to help open your airways.
Your doctor might also recommend lifestyle remedies like quitting smoking and getting regular exercise. Getting consistent, quality sleep is also very important in managing overlap syndrome. Practicing good sleep hygiene and upgrading your mattress at Bel Furniture can help make you comfortable at night and get the rest you need.
Overlap syndrome is a serious condition that can negatively impact your quality of life. By treating your sleep apnea and COPD you are improving your health and reducing your chances for other serious illnesses.
If you have any questions or wish to schedule an appointment with a sleep expert, call Lake Jackson ENT today.