Posted on Wednesday, March 1st, 2023 at 6:00 pm    

Overlap Syndrome occurs when a person suffers from both Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). These two common pulmonary disorders co-occurrence can lead to long-term health problems beyond the lungs, including heart disease and diabetes.

COPD is characterized by airflow limitation that is not reversible and abnormal inflammatory response of the lungs to noxious particles or gases, making it difficult for the body to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide, leading to blood chemistry imbalances. On the other hand, OSA results from the measurable collapse of the upper airway during sleep, causing dangerous dips in blood oxygen levels, increases in carbon dioxide, and arousals that create constant stress on the heart and other organs.

Overlap Syndrome is prevalent among COPD patients, with almost half experiencing breathing challenges during sleep, and studies have shown that 11 to 19 percent of those with COPD also have OSA. Diagnosis of Overlap Syndrome involves an overnight sleep study to identify underlying sleep breathing problems, and treatment focuses on maintaining adequate blood oxygen levels and preventing sleep-disordered breathing. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), weight loss, and short- and long-term steroid use are common approaches.

Despite ongoing research to refine the clinical definition of Overlap Syndrome and improve management strategies, patients with breathing disorders must receive complete and accurate diagnoses to receive the best possible therapy for improved quality of life and reduced morbidity.

How Is Overlap Syndrome Treated?

Since overlap syndrome is the coexistence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), it can be challenging to treat. However, one potential treatment option for managing the symptoms of Overlap Syndrome is using an oral sleep appliance. The process typically works as follows:

  • Evaluation – If you are diagnosed with Overlap Syndrome and are interested in using an oral sleep appliance, your dentist or sleep specialist will evaluate your teeth, gums, and jaw to determine whether an oral appliance is an appropriate treatment option.
  • Fitting –  If an oral appliance is deemed appropriate, your dentist will take impressions of your teeth and create a custom-fit device to fit over your upper and lower teeth.
  • Adjustment – Once the oral appliance is created, your dentist will adjust it to ensure it is comfortable and effective in repositioning your jaw and tongue to keep the airway open during sleep. It is essential to ensure that the device can accommodate the patient’s needs and comfort.
  • Follow-up – After the oral appliance is fitted and adjusted, you must return to your dentist for follow-up appointments to ensure the device is still effective and comfortable to wear. Adjustments may be necessary over time as your teeth and jaw may shift slightly.

While an oral appliance can effectively treat OSA, it is not a cure for Overlap Syndrome. Patients with COPD will still need to manage their condition with medication and other treatments, as their healthcare provider recommends. However, using an oral sleep appliance can help manage the symptoms of OSA and improve sleep quality for patients with Overlap Syndrome.

It is essential to work closely with your healthcare provider and dentist to determine the best course of treatment for managing Overlap Syndrome since each individual’s case is unique. If you are suffering from OSA or COPD, or believe you might have Overlap Syndrome, contact the OSA experts at Silent Night Therapy by phone or online for a consultation to discuss your situation today.