Sleep apnea is a fairly common disorder—one in five adults in the United States have at least a mild case of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Loud snoring is the common complaint of those who share a bed with an OSA sufferer, but there is more going on inside the body of a person with OSA besides annoying snoring. “Sleep apnea occurs when breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep, and it’s caused by a blockage or collapse of the upper airway,” says Teofilo Lee-Chiong, Jr, MD, a professor at National Jewish Health. “These interruptions, also known as apneas, are caused by the collapse of soft tissue in the airway, which, in turn, keeps oxygen from reaching the lungs. Weak muscles in the airway, a large tongue, and obesity may also cause the airway tissue to collapse and obstruct breathing.”
You may notice that your bed partner snores for a bit, then stops and gasps for air. This cycle isn’t healthy for the person with OSA and certainly doesn’t lend itself to a peaceful night’s sleep for the bed partner—and it’s why a CPAP machine can make such a difference. “If left untreated, OSA can give rise to daytime sleepiness and fatigue, high blood pressure, impaired cognition, and increased risk of car accidents. There are also associations with OSA and heart failure and heart attacks, stroke, cardiac rhythm irregularities, type 2 diabetes, and poor academic performance,” says Dr. Lee-Chiong. Find out if any of these other sleep disorders are robbing you of your z’s.
Why Do I Need a CPAP Machine?
If you’ve been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), there is a good chance your doctor wants you to wear a CPAP machine. Anybody that has one knows they can be a bit challenging. Some are bulky, and not exactly the most attractive piece of equipment taking up space in the bedroom. It’s easy for some people to ignore these machines and not wear them. But wearing a CPAP machine when you have sleep apnea doesn’t just give you better quality sleep; it may save your life.
When you have obstructive sleep apnea, obstructions in your airway cause periods of apnea, which means there are long pauses in breathing, sometimes for many seconds at a time throughout the night. CPAP machines are the most popular treatment for OSA. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. A patient with OSA may wear a CPAP machine with a mask that fits just over the nose, or both the nose and mouth. The mask applies continuous pressure into the airway, keeping the airway open and stopping obstruction.
Why Use CPAP?
If you have OSA and are supposed to wear a CPAP machine, skipping out on it may not seem like a big deal, but there is a good chance not wearing it will lead to more serious health conditions.
When you have periods of apnea, blood oxygen levels decrease making your heart work extra hard to pump oxygen through the body. This causes your heart rate and blood pressure to both elevate, putting added stress on the heart.
Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea
Studies show many people with OSA have hypertension, which is high blood pressure. This happens when the force of blood being pushed through the arteries is high. If not controlled, hypertension causes damage to the heart and vessels, and you are at risk for even more serious conditions.
If untreated, sleep apnea may lead to congestive heart failure (CHF). CHF happens when your heart does not pump out enough oxygenated blood to the body. Fluid then builds up elsewhere in the body including ankles, legs, and lungs, making it hard to breathe.
OSA may lead to heart arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is a quivering, irregular, and many times rapid heartbeat. Periods of apnea with an irregular heartbeat could even lead to sudden death.
OSA can also lead to coronary artery disease (CAD). With CAD, a plaque is built up in the walls of arteries, making them narrow, causing restricted blood flow to the heart. This can lead to heart attack, and also may lead to premature death.
There is also a risk of stroke. The effects of stroke can be severe disability or death, and people with OSA may have a more difficult time recovering from any effects.
In any case, oxygen is important for the heart. Lack of oxygen, even during sleep puts too much pressure on your cardiovascular system, and eventually it can weaken.
Even if you do not currently suffer from any of these conditions, there are still good reasons to treat your sleep apnea and wear your CPAP machine. During apnea, not only are blood oxygen levels low, but carbon dioxide in the blood becomes elevated. This can cause headaches, memory loss, fatigue, and may even make you more dangerous behind the wheel.
The continuous pressure from your CPAP will keep your airway open so you can breathe. This way blood oxygen levels stay where they should, and carbon dioxide levels don’t get too high. There may be other CPAP alternatives for treating your sleep apnea, so discuss it with your doctor if you have concerns. But if your doctor recommends a CPAP machine, wear it. It can save your life.
If you are a survivor from COVID-19 or COPD patient, you may be suffering from the lung aftereffects now ....
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of lung conditions that include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It’s a chronic condition that makes breathing difficult, and can lead to coughing and chest discomfort. COPD is a progressive disease, which means that it gets worse over time. There’s no cure for COPD, but there are several types of treatments that can slow the progression and ease symptoms.
Maintaining healthy levels of oxygen in your bloodstream is necessary for brain function and for the health of all your organs, muscles, and tissue. Having COPD means that you have less oxygen circulating throughout your body. The condition is often the result of long-term smoking, and may be from damage to the tiny air sacs in the lungs or to the airways that deliver air through the nose and mouth and down to the lungs. COPD may also be the result of a thickening of the walls of your airways or excessive mucus production in the airways. This thickening and mucus can clog the pathway of air to the lungs.
While oxygen therapy, medications, and even surgery often have the biggest impact on COPD symptoms, a treatment for sleep apnea may be helpful, too. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes you to stop breathing temporarily or gasp for breath while sleeping.
The treatment is called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. It involves the use of a small bedside machine that pumps air through a tube and into a mask that’s worn over your nose and mouth while you sleep. It’s similar to the oxygen therapy many people with COPD use during the day.
CPAP and COPD
According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, another benefit of CPAP therapy is a lower risk of mortality in people who have COPD and sleep apnea. The researchers found that people with both conditions who used CPAP for more than two hours a night tended to live longer than those who used the therapy for fewer than two hours a night. Researchers also noted that CPAP was especially beneficial to people with COPD who were already on long-term oxygen therapy.
CPAP therapy is helpful for those with COPD who also have hypercapnia, according to a report in American Family Physician. Hypercapnia occurs when the body has an unusually high level of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. COPD and other lung diseases are the main causes of hypercapnia, which can be fatal if not properly treated.
CPAP will keep your airway open, plus the Oxygen therapy can also increase the gas-exchange rate in your lung.