COPD and Sleep Apnea.

COPD and Sleep Apnea

You have been diagnosed with COPD, which is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. This is a disease of the lungs that causes obstructed airflow. COPD is the third leading cause of death. Falling under the COPD diagnosis can be emphysema, chronic bronchitis and even alpha-1 antitrypsin, which is the genetic form of COPD.

What is sleep apnea?

Now, during the night, do you feel like you stop breathing? Do you snore? You might be waking up with headaches. After a night time sleep study, your doctor tells you that you stop or nearly stop breathing numerous times during the night and for minutes at a time. Your doctor tells you that you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

The combination of COPD and OSA is called Overlap Syndrome.

How can I treat it?

To aid in your breathing with OSA, you would use a C-Pap (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). With your C-Pap, you would wear a mask over your nose, or a full-face mask which covers your nose and mouth. While you sleep, compressed air blows from the C-Pap machine, through the nose to keep the airway open. Everyone is different, so different mask styles, mask sizes and pressure levels are important to give the best results. If you aren’t on oxygen, you might be tested to see if you need that as well.

Some people have difficulty adjusting to wearing a C-Pap mask. Some say it’s a frightening experience, some get claustrophobic. Thankfully I’m not claustrophobic. Adjusting to wearing a C-Pap was hard for me. I put it away for about 6 months. Finally, a doctor brought me a few masks to try and I finally found one I could tolerate. Since I’m a mouth breather, a full-face mask works best. My size was between a small and medium, the small worked best. It’s so nice to have the possibilities of finding the one that works. Then came the additional adjustments for the compressed air pressure. The doctor recommended setting changes a couple of times, when we found one that worked. My face and nose felt dry, the humidifier was added. You can adjust settings on the humidifier, to a setting that works best for you.

Back to the mask.

I would put it on with the C-Pap turned off, then I didn’t have air to breathe. At times I would put it on with the power turned on and felt like I was being blown away. With my C-Pap supplier, we made sure that the settings were as the doctor prescribed. At night or when I slept, I wore the mask as long as I could tolerate, and each night I Used the C-Pap longer and longer. To help adjust I also wore it sitting up and watching TV, then my focus was on something besides just wearing that mask. That is not recommended as bed time should be bed time, not TV time. I found that when I used it, I didn’t have the headaches. I sleep better, and my pulmonary hypertension improved as well. I don’t sleep as well if I’m not using my C-Pap, I doze and wake up, maybe catch myself snoring. Yes, some women may snore, I was reluctant, but finally admitted it to my husband.

If you are struggling with your C-Pap, talk to your doctor or your C-Pap provider. Explain what you are going through. Try a different type of mask. Sleep Apnea can lead to heart problems and is very serious. It can cause death.

For the health of this overlap syndrome of COPD and Sleep Apnea, it’s very important that you talk to your doctor if you have any problems or concerns. If you haven’t been diagnosed, but think you might have COPD or Sleep Apnea, do talk to your doctor and get tested. Your breathing is so very important, whether you are awake or asleep. Obesity factors in as well.

I hope you have a breathe-easy night and more.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (9)
  • Janet Plank author
    7 months ago

    Mickey22 am glad you have the bells and whistles. The humidifiers make a big difference. It seems that I hear about the new things when it’s time to renew. I remember my excitement came when I received a new humidifier for my c-pap, and it came apart so that I could clean it.
    Thank you for sharing, it helps me to appreciate things much more.
    Janet (site moderator)

  • gracefulgailg56
    7 months ago

    I have both COPD and Sleep Apnea and use a CPAP at night and it does help.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    6 months ago

    Hi again gracefulgail56 and thanks for your post earlier today. Glad to hear the nasal mask works for you and, after a brief period of time getting used to it, you find the CPAP to be beneficial.
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Janet Plank author
    7 months ago

    Hi gracefulgailg56
    That’s wonderful to hear. Did you have trouble adjusting in the beginning?
    Janet (site moderator)

  • Janet Plank author
    6 months ago

    gracefulgailg56
    I’m so happy for you. It’s great that it’s working for you and that you are seeing the benefits. C-Paps do make a difference.
    Janet (site moderator)

  • gracefulgailg56
    6 months ago

    It felt weird in the beginning but it only took me a short time to get used to using it. I use the nashal mask. The benefits of using the machine is definitely worth it.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    Hi mickey22 and thanks for your post. I would approach it from the perspective that as the technology improves, managing one’s COPD and sleep apnea can become more effective, as it is in your personal example. So glad to hear the newer device has resolved the issues you once experienced. Thanks for letting us know. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    Hi gracefulgailg56 and thanks for letting us know using CPAP at night is helpful for you in managing your COPD and sleep apnea. We appreciate you taking the time to let us know. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • mickey22
    7 months ago

    I have both COPD and Sleep Apnea. I was diagnosed in 2007, got my CPAP machine, and for years I wouldn’t even think of taking an afternoon nap without my mask. Had the machine all those years up until last week when I got my new one with all the bells and whistles. Best thing that ever happened. I no longer have dry mouth, because of the humidifier, and I don’t get up during the night for anything. I was one of these guys that thinks “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Never too old to learn, I guess.

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