COPD and Sleep Apnea

Here’s a scary statistic: 24 million American adults have impaired lung function. The main culprit is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 12.7 million Americans have this progressive form of lung disease, which encompasses chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The number one factor causing COPD is smoking. Number two is environmental pollution. Undiagnosed and not properly treated COPD prevents the proper exchange of air in the lungs and causes health to deteriorate.  Now imagine a COPD sufferer who also has sleep apnea, making breathing a struggle 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sleep apnea usually occurs due to an obstruction that causes multiple pauses in breathing throughout the course of a night’s sleep.

Dispelling the Myth of the Connection between COPD and Sleep Apnea

Many are under the false impression that with COPD, the incidence of sleep apnea is higher than in the general population. In all actuality, research published in Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society confirmed that the relationship between the two conditions is not linked to a physiological cause. Unfortunately, it is merely due to chance.

Due to the fact that there are so many similarities between COPD and sleep apnea, when both are present, the person is said to have overlap syndrome. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of people with COPD have overlap syndrome.

The following are the symptoms for COPD and sleep apnea, which can overlap:

  • Lower blood oxygen levels
  • Fatigue
  • Daytime sleepiness

Unfortunately, COPD sufferers also experience difficulty in breathing, tightening of the chest, frequent nighttime urination and chronic morning cough. People with sleep apnea find that they snore, and have morning headaches and poor concentration. Although the incidence of sleep apnea is not higher for COPD patients, the quality of sleep and oxygen levels during sleep will worsen with overlap syndrome. When left untreated, both COPD and sleep apnea increase an individual’s risk for other life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

If sleep apnea is treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and/or even cured with radiofrequency ablation (RFA), the life of a COPD sufferer will improve. Published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine, researchers at Brown University in Providence, RI, discovered that any CPAP use by test subjects with overlap syndrome lowered their risk of death.

For both COPD and sleep apnea, it is important to see a physician and get an accurate diagnosis. The longer either condition is left untreated, the shorter a person’s life expectancy.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with COPD and want to learn more about treatment options, please contact or call 888-745-6697 us today.