Studies suggest that there is a direct connection between asthma and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a nighttime sleeping disorder, which is caused due to the low oxygen levels in the blood. This can result in loud snoring, breathlessness and even gasping, choking or gagging while sleeping. People with asthma are more prone to sleep apnea than those without this chronic lung disease.
A study undertaken in Wisconsin examined the occurrence of sleep apnea in adult participants, over a period of 25 years, from 1988 till 2013. The study concluded that asthma was associated with an increased risk of sleep apnea. The symptoms of asthma, like nasal congestion, inflamed airway, and breathlessness, can aggravate sleep apnea. Another study has also proven that nocturnal symptoms occur in 60 to 74% of asthma patients. Sleep apnea is a common risk factor for asthma.
However, sleep apnea can also worsen symptoms of asthma during the day. A study mentions that the mechanisms which lead to worsening of asthma in patients of sleep apnea, include partial or complete airway obstruction. Also, sleep apnea often results in gastroesophageal acid reflux due to increased abdominal pressure. Sleep apnea is also associated with bronchial inflammation and hyperresponsiveness, which can trigger an asthma attack. Sleep apnea is also linked to cardiac dysfunction, increasing the risk of congestive heart failure which causes airway obstruction, resulting in asthma. There is increasing evidence that obesity may be a major risk factor for asthma, and many obese patients are likely to develop sleep apnea as well.
Sleep apnea, sometimes, can be managed by making small lifestyle changes and improving sleeping habits. Here are some ways to manage sleep apnea:
A popular treatment option for sleep apnea is CPAP therapy (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Therapy). Nasal CPAP is quite effective in controlling the symptoms of sleep apnea. In this treatment, a mask is worn while sleeping. Depending on the requirement of the patient and the model, the mask covers the mouth and nose or only the nose. Compressed air is blown into the airways using a small pump attached to the mask by a tube. This incoming air keeps the upper airways free, reducing the number of breathing pauses, increasing blood oxygen levels and improving the quality of sleep.
We, at Sepalika, do not recommend CPAP machines on a normal basis. However, the increased risk of serious injury or threat to life for people with severe asthma may make it worthwhile for them to use such machines under medical supervision.
To conclude with, people with asthma need to be aware of their increased risk to Obstructive Sleep Apnea. which, in turn, could worsen their asthma as well as cause other health problems. They should take proper precautions to sleep naturally.
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