OSA–COPD overlap syndrome: What to know

At least 1 in 10 people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) also have COPD (known as overlap syndrome).1 On their own, both chronic conditions lower patients’ quality of life and are potentially fatal. But combined, they can be even worse than the sum of their symptoms.2

The good news is: There are treatment options for managing both conditions. So the key is finding out if you have overlap and then treating both conditions as soon as possible.

Low oxygen levels: A main risk of OSA–COPD overlap syndrome

Due to the breathing difficulties those with COPD commonly have at all hours of the day, those who have both COPD and OSA “are at greater risk of prolonged oxygen desaturation at night than those with OSA but without COPD; the degree of obstruction… correlates with the risk of prolonged hypoxemia [low oxygen levels in your blood that can cause tissues and organs to malfunction].”3

Do I have OSA–COPD overlap syndrome?

Both OSA and COPD are most closely associated with: people over 35, and strongly linked to smoking and “worsening conditions when gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) is present.”4 If you have any of those conditions and/or long-term exposure to tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke or air pollution, we encourage you to take this quick 5-question screening quiz on the COPD Foundation’s website,5 and discuss the results with your doctor.

In our next blog post, we’ll discuss a ResMed product that is specifically designed to treat COPD symptoms.



  1. Resta O et al. Hypercapnia in overlap syndrome: Possible determinant factors. Sleep Breath 2002;6(1):11–8.
  2. Pruitt B. A deadly duo: When COPD and OSA overlap. RT Magazine. 2014 May 9. http://www.rtmagazine.com/2014/05/deadlyI wi-duo-copd-and-osa-overlap/ (accessed October 9, 2015).
  3. Owens RL and Malhotra A. Sleep-disordered breathing and COPD: The overlap syndrome. Respir Care 2010;55(10):1333–46.
  4. Ioachimescu OC and Teodorescu M. Integrating the overlap of obstructive lung disease and obstructive sleep apnoea: OLDOSA syndrome. Respirology. 2013;18(3):421–31.
  5. Martinez FJ et al. Development and initial validation of a self-scored COPD population screener questionnaire (COPD-PS). Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 2008;5(2):85–95.