The Connection Between COPD and Sleep Apnea

The Connection Between COPD and Sleep Apnea

copd obstructive sleep apnea sleep apnea

Those suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) already have a hard enough time breathing. When you also have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), another common pulmonary disease, you might find yourself dealing with two times the number of breathing problems. When patients suffer from these two diseases simultaneously, their condition is classified as Overlap Syndrome.

About 15% of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have overlap syndrome which can lead to fatigue, pulmonary hypertension, and hypercapnia. We’ve put together everything you need to know about the connection between COPD and OSA to ensure you receive the necessary treatment.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Those suffering from obstructive sleep apnea stop breathing throughout the night. While the cessation in breathing only lasts for a few seconds, these brief interruptions in their sleep can lead to feeling unrested, dry mouth, snoring, and headaches. Most individuals with obstructive sleep apnea don’t realize they are gasping for air in their sleep — the symptoms are usually noticed by their partner who hears their snoring and gasps throughout the night. Upon suspicion of the breathing disorder, patients undergo sleep apnea testing to determine the right form of treatment.

What Is COPD?

Similar to OSA, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease makes it difficult for individuals to breathe because their airways are narrow or become clogged. Most patients with COPD are smokers or breathe in secondhand smoke regularly. If diagnosed with COPD, there isn’t a cure and the disease worsens over time. However, there are different ways patients can manage their symptoms and make breathing a bit easier.

COPD and Sleep Apnea Overlap Syndrome

Studies have shown that 43% of people with COPD experience breathing difficulty while sleeping. To make breathing easier for those with both disorders, the individual must take action to manage their symptoms. Patients can improve their conditions by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Avoiding drinking alcohol at night
  • Sleeping on their side

Those with overlap syndrome have a higher risk for worsening morbidity and early mortality in comparison to patients with COPD or OSA, but not both disorders simultaneously. A COPD diagnosis doesn’t automatically mean the patient will also be diagnosed with sleep apnea. However, if a doctor suspects the individual is suffering from overlap syndrome, a sleep study will be administered.

Testing and Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

If your physician believes your symptoms indicate both COPD and obstructive sleep apnea, they’ll recommend you undergo a sleep assessment.

A fast and affordable home sleep study can be self-administered in the comfort of your own home, saving you both time and money. The sleep apnea test will be shipped directly to your home along with instructions so you feel confident administering the overnight unattended sleep study. While you sleep, the device will monitor and record your blood oxygen levels, blood oxygen saturation, breathing and heart rates, and more to gather important information that one of ApneaMed’s board-certified sleep physicians can review.

Upon reviewing the results of the sleep apnea test, the sleep physicians will provide you with a recommended treatment for sleep apnea, which will also help alleviate some of the symptoms you also experience with COPD. The most common form of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is CPAP therapy, which will provide continuous airway pressure while you sleep — helping you breathe continuously throughout the night.

If you have any questions about ApneaMed’s at-home sleep apnea test or our sleep apnea treatment equipment, contact our team to learn more.

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