COPD and Sleep Apnea: Overlap Syndrome

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and sleep apnea are two of the most common pulmonary diseases, and can even occur simultaneously. When an individual suffers from both COPD and sleep apnea, the condition is referred to as Overlap Syndrome, which can lead to a number of health complications. Typically, an individual with COPD will have fluctuating levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood during the day, but will get relief at night when they sleep. If they also have sleep apnea, the breathing is also disturbed at night, leading to further imbalances in their blood chemistry.

The Link Between COPD and Sleep Apnea

Studies have shown that individuals suffering from COPD are more likely to experience breathing difficulties while sleeping, whether they are diagnosed with full-fledged obstructive sleep apnea or just have some of the symptoms. In fact, up to half of COPD patients will also experience breathing difficulties at night. This may be due in part to the fact that COPD and sleep apnea both originate through the same mechanism where the muscles of the upper and lower airways do not function properly.

Diagnosis of Overlap Syndrome

Diagnosing Overlap Syndrome typically happens when a COPD patient complains of sleep problems. An overnight study is prescribed and during the assessment, blood oxygen levels and sleep patterns are observed. If an underlying sleep breathing issue is discovered, the patient may be diagnosed with Overlap Syndrome. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment can begin.

Treatment of Overlap Syndrome

Treatment of Overlap Syndrome focuses on maintaining proper blood chemistry throughout the day and night. Efforts are made to prevent or reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea, often using a CPAP machine in combination with supplemental oxygen. If the individual is obese, weight management or weight loss may be recommended as well as the proactive use of steroids to treat COPD symptoms.

Treatments may vary amongst individuals in order to find the right combination of therapies and exercises to maintain steady blood oxygen levels. Once diagnosed, treatment works quickly, immediately improving sleep and the overall health of the individual. For those diagnosed with COPD, it’s important to discuss any sleep issues you may be having with your doctor. Early and accurate diagnosis is key to receiving the best possible care.

Why You Should Never Buy a Used CPAP Machine

CPAP machines can be expensive and with used instruments going for as low as a quarter of the retail price, it can be tempting to save some money by choosing gently used over new. Unfortunately, that gently used CPAP machine may not be all you’re getting out of the deal. Buying used medical equipment can expose you to the previous owner’s germs and pathogens, raising your risk for illness and infection. The mask and tubing of the machine came in direct contact with particles from someone else’s lungs or mouth, and you have no way of knowing what exactly is in the machine when you buy it.

Moist Environments Breed Bacteria

Because of the way a CPAP machine works, it’s not uncommon for them to harbor moisture. Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments. Yeast, mold, viruses and mildew also favor these types of conditions and will thrive in a used CPAP machine that has been put away for a period. Even most solid-looking instrument has nooks and crannies on the inside that can harbor any number of pests or pathogens, and you have no way of knowing for sure what the previous owner’s cleaning regimen was like.

Health Risks Associated with Used Medical Equipment

You may be wondering what the worst-case scenario is when you buy a used CPAP machine. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing if the machine you bought used is actually clean and what types of pathogens it could be harboring. Here are just a few of the types of illnesses that have been found lurking in used CPAP machines:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Tuberculosis
  • Viral infections
  • Parasites
  • Pneumonia

Used CPAP Machines Can Cost More than New

If the health risks alone aren’t enough to deter you from buying a used CPAP machine, consider the monetary risks as well. A used machine won’t come with a warranty, so if it never turns on or stops working after a day or two, you’re out the money you spent with no possible recourse. You may also have a hard time finding replacement tubing or masks, limiting the lifespan of your machine. Without a warranty or replacement parts available, you’ll probably have to buy another machine in a year or two.

Before you buy used, take a look at’s selection of affordable CPAP machines. We carry a wide selection of machines at all price points, so you won’t have to risk your health in order to get a great night’s sleep.


How Snoring is linked to Sleep Apnea

Although your snoring leads to many sleepless nights for your sleep partner and has made you the butt of many jokes, snoring is no joking matter. According to, snoring is one of the most common signs of sleep apnea — a potentially serious sleep disorder in which one’s breathing stops and starts repeatedly throughout the night. Breathing pauses can last several seconds and in severe cases, breathing pauses can occur 30 times or more an hour. Approximately 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea.

The most common form of sleep apnea is known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA); a condition in which the muscle in the back of the throat collapse during sleep, blocking the airway. As your brain receives the signal that something is amiss, it partially awakens to alert your body that it needs to breathe. This is what causes the loud gasping, choking or snorting sounds someone makes as they try to take a deep enough breathe to fight past the obstruction. Untreated sleep apnea has been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

I snore; does that mean I have sleep apnea?

Not necessarily. While most people diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea snore, not all those who snore have sleep apnea. Snoring alone isn’t considered an indicator that you have sleep apnea. Other symptoms of OSA include:

  • Excessive daytime drowsiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Intermittent pauses in your breathing as you sleep that’s noticed by your partner
  • Feeling depressed or having mood swings
  • Frequent nighttime urination
  • Dry mouth or sore throat when you wake up

There are several reasons unrelated to sleep apnea that can cause snoring. These include:

  • Being overweight: people who are overweight may have extra tissue in the back of their throat.
  • Physical characteristics: nasal polyps, deviated septum and enlarged adenoids.
  • Sinus and nasal congestion due to a cold, upper respiratory infection or allergies.
  • Alcohol consumption: alcohol relaxes the throat muscles.
  • Sleep position: sleeping on your back can cause the flesh in your throat to relax, leading to a blocked airway.

If you are concerned about your snoring, seek the advice of your doctor. He or she will be able to assess your symptoms and rule out whether or not you may have sleep apnea. If your doctor suspects you do, you’ll be advised to undergo a sleep study. Although being diagnosed with sleep apnea sounds scary, the good news is that treatment is available. Lifestyle changes and breathing devices, such as CPAP machines, have all been proven to be successful.

Tips for Travelling with CPAP

You’ve finally gotten the hang of using your CPAP machine and wearing your CPAP mask, when an unsettling thought suddenly strikes: “How the heck am I going to travel with my CPAP machine?” This is one of the most common questions asked by sleep apnea patients, and fortunately, one that can be answered with many helpful tips. Whether you travel a little or a lot, when you follow our tips for traveling with your CPAP machine, you’ll find that leaving town or the country with your machine and equipment in tow isn’t as bad as it seems.

Carry-on Only

Never pack your CPAP machine and accessories in your checked luggage; always pack it in your carry-on bag. This eliminates the risk of never seeing it again if your bag gets lost. Did you know that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, carrying your CPAP machine in its traveling case isn’t considered carry-on luggage, and therefore, doesn’t count towards your carry-on quota?

Bring a Doctor’s Note

Getting valid documentation from your doctor stating that you require traveling with a CPAP machine can help things run smoothly through the security line should a problem arise. It’s also wise to label your CPAP case with a medical equipment luggage tag. Ask your doctor to also give you a copy of your prescription for the machine in the event that it gets lost and you need to replace it or you need additional supplies.

Keep it Germ-Free

Place your machine and accessories in a clear, plastic bag to protect them from germs and bacteria when going through the x-ray machine. If your machine must be inspected by an agent, ask that the agent put on a fresh pair of sterile gloves before handling it to protect the hygiene of your machine. Or, you can take the SoClean 2 Go machine with you and clean your CPAP everyday, if you have extended travel plan.

Invest in Travel Size: If you’re a frequent traveler, investing in a travel CPAP machine is the lightweight, compact way to go. They take up less space in your weekend tote or carry-on bag.

Pack Accessories and Extras: Bring a battery backup in case you lose power or you’re somewhere where there’s no access to electricity or an outlet. The battery pack also comes in handy when you are on a long-haul flight and plan on sleeping. If you’re traveling internationally, check to see that your machine comes with a universal power supply that supports a range of voltages. If not, bring a voltage adapter.

As a final note, it’s always best to check with your airline carrier well in advance to learn about their policy for carrying a CPAP machine.

Are Sleep Apnea and Narcolepsy Related?

Do you struggle to keep your eyes open during the day? Try to sneak in naps here and there? Find it difficult to concentrate? While these are common symptoms everyone experiences from time to time as a result of working long hours, getting too little sleep and other lifestyle choices, they could be a sign of specific medical conditions especially when accompanied by memory problems, loss of appetite, anxiety and irritability. Could it be sleep apnea or narcolepsy? Are they related? While sleep apnea and narcolepsy both lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, cause you to nod off and are considered sleep disorders, that’s where their similarities end.

What’s Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that affects the control of wakefulness and sleep. The telltale symptom of narcolepsy is uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep throughout the day. Other symptoms include the sudden loss of muscle tone (cataplexy), intense emotions such as laughter and anger, hallucinations and temporary sleep paralysis. Scientists aren’t sure what causes narcolepsy, but are looking into the possibility of identifying multiple factors such as genes associated with the disorder as well abnormalities in various parts of the brain involved in regulating REM sleep.

What’s Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is not a neurological disorder, but rather a breathing-related sleep disorder. Those with sleep apnea stop breathing several times an hour during each night due to an obstruction of their airway. This obstruction is typically caused when the muscles in the back of the throat relax, causing the airway to narrow or close making it difficult to breathe. Your brain senses your inability to breathe and stirs you awake to breathe again. This interrupted breathing prevents you from getting a good night of sleep and is what leads to feeling so sleepy throughout the day.

Can Someone Have Both Narcolepsy and Sleep Apnea?

Yes. According to a study published by Sleep Medicine, an individual can have both narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea. Interestingly, the study reveals, “sleep apnea occurs frequently in narcolepsy and may delay the diagnosis of narcolepsy by several years and interfere with its proper management.” Furthermore, “Treatment with CPAP does not usually improve excessive daytime sleepiness in narcoleptics with sleep apnea.”