Asthma and Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition caused by the collapse of the airway.  It only happens during sleep reducing oxygen to the body leading to many bad health effects.  Symptoms of OSA include choking/gasping at night, E.D., loud snoring, morning headaches, and daytime tiredness.  And the main symptoms are loud soring and daytime tiredness, but often one isn’t aware that he/she is snoring.  Usually they have to depend on someone else to let them know that they are snoring—a bed partner, a grandkid, etc.

Even though not all of those who suffer with asthma have OSA, studies have shown that those who suffer with asthma have an increased risk of OSA.  And OSA can make asthma and the symptoms associated with asthma worse.  OSA increases acid reflux (GERD), contributes to weight gain leading to obesity, causes reduced oxygen to all the body’s cells, and causes increased inflammation in the entire body including the lungs.

Acid reflux can cause and/or increase the asthma symptoms.  And OSA can cause and/or increase the acid reflux.  Kind of a vicious cycle.  OSA increases inflammatory chemicals in the blood which may increase the inflammation in the lungs which has been caused by the asthma.  In turn, this inflammation contributes to weight gain/obesity which makes asthma worse!

Oral appliance therapy and CPAP are both treatments for OSA and can reduce the symptoms of asthma.  In oral appliance therapy, a small mouthpiece worn at night keeps the tongue forward off the airway, keeping the airway open.  In CPAP therapy, a mask is worn on the face during the night to provide pressurized air to keep the airway open; the patient’s airway is blown up like a balloon and held open with the pressure.

Acid reflux is decreased with treatment for OSA as well as those inflammatory chemicals.  This can reduce inflammation in the lungs.  With increased airflow, oxygen is increased.  This can decrease the contraction of the smooth muscles around the airways and in turn reduce some of the symptoms of asthma.

But before any therapy can begin, a patient must get a diagnosis of OSA from a certified sleep physician.  The process can be a bit confusing.  Our office can help patients navigate the system.  Make a free consultation appointment today.