A Guide To Your Nighttime Asthma And Sleep Apnea...And The Terrifying Link Between Them

If you have ever woken up, grasping for breath that is not there or you dread strenuous physical activities because you can never be sure that you won't have a breathing problem manifest, you may think that both concerns are symptoms of asthma. Unfortunately, that may not be accurate and it is critical to be evaluated for sleep apnea, which often presents with some of the same symptoms as nighttime asthma flare-ups. However, each requires their own treatments and have their own significant health risks, although having one puts you at a higher risk of the other. Therefore, if you have recently learned that you may have sleep apnea and you also have asthma, the following information is likely to be quite helpful.

Understanding Your Nighttime Asthma

The causes of nighttime asthma are not always clearly understood and because its symptoms are usually triggered by symptoms that are unique to nocturnal sleeping patterns, effectively treating is often quite challenging. It is important to note that while attacks of this type are classified as nighttime or nocturnal, individuals who work at night or otherwise need to sleep during the day are likely to experience it during the day, even though the contributing factors may change. 

For example, your reclining or prone position at night added to the cooler temperatures often present in homes at night or while you are sleeping can put you at a higher risk of nighttime asthma attacks. In addition, when you sleep, it is not unusual for your bronchial airways to narrow, which can make coughing more likely. That coughing can then turn into an asthma attack, requiring the use of an emergency inhaler, breathing treatments or oral medications.

Given that recent estimates are that about 1/4 of a million people in the world die each year from asthma and that in 2010, more than 3,000 people in the United States died as a result of that illness, gaining adequate control of your asthma is essential.

Learning About Your Sleep Apnea

Unfortunately, you may be at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea if you have asthma and in turn, sleep apnea sufferers are more likely to develop asthma. A recent study that occurred over a period of 18 years determined that individuals with severe and untreated sleep apnea were more than three times as likely to die from it, when compared to people who did not have that issue.    

Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Trouble sleeping and repeatedly waking up at night  
  • Reduced oxygen levels in your bloodstream due to a narrowed upper airway 
  • An inability to breathe or waking up to feel as if you are suffocating
  • Loud snoring that does not respond to environmental or lifestyle changes
  • Uncontrolled breathing abnormalities, such as unexplained coughing or choking disturbing your sleep  
  • The cessation of sleeping

Due to the fact that sleep apnea is characterized by increased levels of irritation within the lungs, one current theory is that the symptoms of coughing, wheezing etc. can trigger increased levels of the chemicals associated with that irritation in the blood stream. That allows for a higher likelihood of asthma attacks, which are also associated with an increased irritation of the lungs.

Since asthma and sleep apnea can both be lethal, effective treatment is essential. A common treatment is the use of a CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, machine that is worn when sleeping. It works by providing constant pressure to the lungs in order to keep the airways from narrowing or shutting down while you are asleep. If its use does not address the problem or is unappealing to you, a surgical procedure known that is known as Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, and is often shortened to UP3 or UPP, may be an option. It removes portions of your soft palate and all of your uvula and tonsils, with the goal of removing possible blockages to your breathing.   

In conclusion, asthma and sleep apnea often present with similar symptoms and having one of them can put you at increased risk of developing the other. As a result, it is a good idea to discuss the above information with your physician if your nighttime asthma isn't responding well to current medications or treatment, as you may also be experiencing apneic episodes. For more information, contact companies like Jerry C Hu DDS Family Dentistry LLC.