It is always important to know what is going on in the world of COPD/Asthma, hence a new weekly (at the minimum) posting of ‘Notes to Know about COPD/Asthma’ – because those of us battling the issue should always be up to date on what is going on, and that includes both the positives and the negatives of the COPD/Asthma life.

Special note – This writer has sleep apnea to go along with both late Stage III COPD and severe Asthma, so I can relate to some of what is written in the article we are sharing.  On another note for another posting is that sleep apnea can cause eye problems as well.

The following write comes from a WebMD Medical Reference that was reviewed by William Bland, MD in 2016.

COPD and Sleep Apnea:  Is There a Link?

Topics to cover will be –

What is COPD?

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

When the Conditions Overlap.

Poor-Quality Sleep.

Heart Complications.

And How Do I Manage Overlap Syndrome?

Breathing can be hard at times when you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also called COPD. It might be even harder when you have obstructive sleep apnea at the same time.

Some people think that having COPD makes you more likely to get sleep apnea. But recent studies have found the chances of getting sleep apnea are about the same whether you have COPD or not.

Still, if you happen to have both conditions, it’s important to know how one affects the other and the steps you can take to make your breathing and your life easier.

First, it’s good to learn a little more about both conditions.

What is COPD?

COPD makes breathing hard because of clogged or narrow airways.

You may have heard of emphysema (which damages air sacs in your lungs) and chronic bronchitis (ongoing inflammation in the tubes that bring air to your lungs), which are both diseases that fall under the umbrella of COPD.

COPD is usually caused by smoking or breathing in secondhand smoke or other air pollutants. There is no cure. It tends to progress over time, meaning it gets worse. But there are often ways to manage symptoms.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

This happens when your breathing stops briefly on and off throughout the night. Each pause may last only a few seconds. Some people with apnea have hundreds of these interruptions every night.

It has many causes, but the most common one happens when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much while you’re sleeping. They can block the airway in your throat.

People with sleep apnea tend to snore. They also gasp for breath when their breathing pauses.

When the Conditions Overlap

When you have both conditions, it’s called “overlap syndrome.” About 10% to 15% of people with COPD have overlap syndrome. The combo raises your chances of having:

Hypercapnia (too much carbon dioxide in your blood)

Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in your lungs’ arteries)

Fatigue (a drop in your energy level and increased daytime sleepiness)

Poor-Quality Sleep

Sleeping is a challenge for anyone with COPD. Breathing can be hard lying down. Your chest tightens.

You might need to go to the bathroom throughout the night. When you wake up, you may have a nagging cough. Apnea on top of COPD makes your quality of sleep even poorer.

Heart Complications

COPD can raise your chances of having a life-threatening heart attack.

Sleep apnea can also raise your chances of the following problems:

High blood pressure

Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms)


Heart failure (in which the heart doesn’t send enough blood to your body)

Because COPD and obstructive sleep apnea can cause heart problems, you should talk with your doctor about what you can do to manage overlap syndrome.

How Do I Manage Overlap Syndrome?

If you have COPD, you should be doing everything you can to keep your lungs working as well as possible. If you snore or your bed partner says you gasp for air while sleeping, get tested for sleep apnea as well.

This test usually involves an overnight stay in a sleep clinic. Your breathing will be monitored while you sleep. This will tell your doctor whether you had bouts of apnea. If you did, it will tell how many and how long they lasted.

A common sleep apnea treatment may be very helpful if you have COPD, too.

It’s called continuous positive airway pressure therapy, or CPAP. You keep a small machine by your bedside that pumps air through a tube into your lungs. You breathe the air through a facemask or a small device that fits in your nostrils. The mild air pressure helps your airways stay open.

There are other ways to help manage this overlap problem. These include:

Avoiding alcohol before bedtime

Keep a healthy weight

Exercise as much as safely possible (talk to your doctor before you start any new exercise program)

Sleep on your side

Keep in mind that just because you have COPD doesn’t mean you will get sleep apnea. But if you do, it’s important that you work with your doctors to manage both problems as well as you can.

(WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on November 30, 2016)

‘Notes to Know about COPD/Asthma’ will feature writings from medical folks and caretakers who share insights into the world of what may be going on in the world of COPD/Asthma.  ‘Notes to Know about COPD/Asthma’ will be found at either or within the Facebook page, COPD Travels.

Remember – ‘a person without good breathing, is a person without a good life’, so let’s do what we can, to learn what we can, to improve what we can.

I bid to all – smiles, prayers, blessings and steady breathing – Mr. William.

(Copyright@2017, CrossDove Writer through – no part of this write may be used or copied without written permission.)

NOTES: Sometimes we share what may seem like medical information, but we are only giving descriptions and highlights of various aspects of having COPD and/or asthma and no way do we ever want our information to be considered medical treatment type of information, always consult your physician for more, clearer and more medical founded information.