This post was coauthored by Jane Martin, RT and Kristen Szymonik, BS, RRT, AE-C
See your doctor if you’re having trouble sleeping and not waking up feeling rested.
It would seem simple enough—you’re tired, you put on your pajamas, fall into bed, and close your eyes. But if you have COPD, it might not be so easy to sleep well and wake up the next morning feeling renewed and refreshed.
When it comes to COPD and sleep, there’s a lot to learn. Today we’re going to focus on OSA COPD overlap syndrome, a condition in which an individual with COPD also has obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Let’s start by taking a look at sleep apnea.
Types of Sleep Apnea
The term apnea means “not breathing.” Sleep apnea is when a person’s breathing stops while you’re sleeping. There are two kinds of sleep apnea: central and obstructive. Central sleep apnea is a problem that originates in your brain. During sleep, your breathing muscles don’t receive the proper signals from your brain. As a result, you stop breathing for periods of time. Central sleep apnea is much less common than obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a problem of the airways. With obstructive sleep apnea, parts of your airway block your breathing while you sleep. Your body then becomes distressed because your breathing is no longer effective. When your body senses the drop in oxygen that is occurring, it starts to wake you up. This repeated wake-sleep cycle causes stress on your body and can damage to your organs.
Some people with obstructive sleep apnea stop breathing several times each night, while others may stop breathing dozens of times. The number of times you stop breathing and how long each episode lasts helps to determine how severe your sleep apnea is. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can cause other serious health conditions and put you at risk for complications such as diabetes, heart and kidney disease, and other serious health conditions.
Over 20% of men and 15% of women around the world suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Some people may have obstructive sleep apnea, and not know it. Often, their partner will observe them snoring loudly or “choking” in their sleep and alert them to the problem. Other symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include fatigue, especially during the day, dry mouth, morning or daytime headaches, night sweats, high blood pressure, and more.
Diagnosing Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea can be diagnosed by your doctor based on your symptoms and sleep history. Evaluation often involves overnight monitoring of your breathing and other body functions during sleep. This can be done at a sleep center, or sometimes at home.
Treating OSA COPD Overlap Syndrome
Obstructive sleep apnea is a dangerous condition for everyone, but especially those who have COPD. Some people with COPD already have lower oxygen levels in their blood. If they have obstructive sleep apnea too, those levels drop even further.
OSA COPD overlap syndrome can be treated with oxygen therapy, mouth guards and other dental appliances, surgery, and/or airway pressure devices. Two common types of airway pressure devices are CPAP and BiPAP.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a device that delivers a set amount of air or pressure to your airway. The air is sent through a face mask or nasal mask and keeps your airway open while you sleep. Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) is similar to CPAP but delivers a set pressure both while you inhale and exhale.
Getting the right diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference in taking stress off your lungs, heart, and brain, and helping you feel better—all day long. If you’re not waking up feeling rested, talk with your health care provider about getting a sleep test.
Follow this link for more information: Sleep Apnea and COPD: What You Should Know | COPD Foundation