Sleep apnea and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are two common conditions that can make breathing difficult and negatively affect your health.
Sleep apnea occurs when you repeatedly stop breathing during sleep. Even though the pauses in breathing are temporary, your body wakes itself every time it happens, making it difficult to get quality sleep. If you have sleep apnea you’ve probably tried everything from melatonin to chamomile tea, to buying the highest quality mattress you can find at Mattress By Appointment or another local store, but still struggle with daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
COPD refers to a group of lung conditions usually involving chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
When people suffer from both conditions at the same time, it is referred to as overlap syndrome.
Why This Happens
There does not appear to be a direct causal relationship between sleep apnea and COPD. Sleep apnea is usually caused by enlarged tonsils or neuromuscular disorders, whereas COPD is linked to chronic exposure to irritants like cigarette smoke, air pollution, and chemical fumes.
However, each condition involves inflammation of the airways, and smoking is linked to an increased risk for having both diseases.
Side Effects and Risks
Overlap syndrome can negatively affect your quality of life and increase your risk of developing other health issues including:
- Excessive snoring
- Frequently waking up at night
- Daytime sleepiness
More seriously overlap syndrome increases your risk of heart disease, abnormal heartbeat, high blood pressure, pulmonary hypertension, stroke, and in some cases heart failure.
Testing and Diagnosis
If you believe you are suffering from overlap syndrome your doctor will use several tests to obtain a diagnosis. These tests include:
- Overnight oximetry, which measures blood oxygen levels overnight.
- Sleep apnea test done either in lab or for some patients in their own bed. It measures breathing patterns, blood oxygen levels, stages of sleep, and body position overnight.
- Arterial blood gas (ABG) checks lung function.
In order to treat overlap symptoms, your doctors will work with you to manage each condition. This may include the use of positive airway pressure therapy, oxygen therapy, and bronchodilators to help open up your airways.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is another option that refers to therapies and lifestyle changes that can improve your symptoms such as developing an exercise program or a cessation plan to help you quit smoking.
Both sleep apnea and COPD can make life more difficult. By managing both conditions you are reducing your risk for heart disease, getting better sleep, and improving your quality of life.
For more information on overlap syndrome or other sleep issues, or to schedule an appointment with a sleep expert, call Ear, Nose & Throat Associates, P.C. today.