Sleep Apnea Research

What Is The Connection Between Sinusitis and Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea and sinusitis are both health conditions that reduce your quality of sleep. While Obstructive Sleep Apnea blocks the throat, sinus inflammation blocks the nasal passages. The result of either condition is an inability to get a good night’s sleep. When this happens on a regular basis, it leads to chronic sleep loss and fatigue.

Chronic sleep loss leads to a whole host of health problems from high blood pressure to diabetes. If you think you are suffering from Sleep Apnea or sinusitis or both, start by learning more about the connection between these medical conditions.

What is Sinusitis

Sinusitis is caused by swelling and inflammation in the nasal cavities. The nasal cavities, also known as sinuses, are located in two areas of the face. This includes the forehead just above the area between the eyebrows, as well as under the eyes in each cheek. The sinus cavity is surrounded by bone, lined with fine hairs called cilia that work like brooms, and are filled air.

According to Cedars-Sinai, the purpose of the sinuses is to lighten the weight of our skulls and give our voices a boost. However, sinuses are most beneficial for producing mucus. This mucus is used as a protectant for the nasal cavities.

Each time you inhale through the nose, this mucus and cilia work together to trap dust, dirt, pollutants, bacteria, and other particles. This stops these particles from entering the body, especially the lungs.

Normally, the sinuses drain every 10 minutes to maintain a clear passage. When you get a cold or suffer from allergies, the nasal passages typically swell up which blocks the flow of the sinuses. However, when you are sick the nasal passages are unable to clean themselves naturally. This leads to a build-up of mucus that contains bacteria.

If this bacteria continues to build up in the nasal passages, it leads to inflammation. Acute sinusitis is the primary condition caused by inflamed nasal passages. If left untreated, this condition becomes chronic sinusitis lasting up to eight weeks. Subsequent nasal congestion will most likely prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. You may also have facial pain and a runny nose along with headaches.

Certain individuals are more likely to contract sinusitis. These include swimmers who swim in polluted water, such as the ocean, as well as smokers or individuals exposed to secondhand smoke. In addition, individuals who are regularly in contact with school-age children are more likely to be exposed to bacteria and colds leading to sinus conditions. By avoiding these circumstances, you decrease your risk of sinusitis.

What is Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder resulting in interrupted sleep caused by breathing problems. When you are diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, your upper airway is blocked when you are asleep.

The blockage can be slight or complete and leave you gasping for air. When this happens, your brain should receive the message to breathe, but instead, you stop breathing while sleeping.

Most of the time, you wake up after not breathing and regain your breathing pattern. However, this disrupts your sleep and causes a lack of reaching the critical deep sleep stage. The result is feeling tired and irritable during the day due to a lack of sleep.

Over time this chronic lack of sleep leads to and is associated with more concerning health problems. These include daytime fogginess and fatigue that makes you feel more irritable and stressed. Over time, chronic stress is consistent with causing high blood pressure, heart attacks, obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Sleep Apnea and its associated symptoms are serious health conditions that if left untreated can be fatal.

Is There a Connection Between Sinusitis and Sleep Apnea?

According to a study published in 2016 in Scientific Reports titled “Obstructive Sleep Apnea and the Subsequent Risk of Chronic Rhinosinusitis: A Population-Based Study,” the connection between sinusitis and Sleep Apnea is still not clear. In the study, researchers followed 971 patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, as well as 4,855 patients not diagnosed with OSA, for five years.

The researchers reported fewer than seven percent of patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea was later diagnosed with sinusitis. Among those patients without OSA, two percent also developed sinusitis. The research shows there is no definite correlation that links Sleep Apnea and sinusitis. Just because you are diagnosed with Sleep Apnea does not mean you will automatically develop sinusitis and vice versa.

However, there is a slight increase in the risk that an individual with Sleep Apnea will also have sinusitis. The symptoms of sinusitis are nasal congestion, inflammation in the ear, and sinus pressure.

These all cause an inability to breathe easily while sleeping. As a result, someone who is diagnosed with chronic sinusitis and does not seek treatment is likely to develop Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

With sinusitis, the nasal passages close off and block the airways when the individual is sleeping. This is different from OSA that occurs due to overly relaxed muscles. Sleep Apnea associated with chronic sinusitis can be treated effectively when the patient treats their sinusitis.

Does Nasal Congestion Cause Sleep Apnea?

When you are diagnosed with nasal congestion, you are unable to breathe properly at any time of the day. However, at night you will likely notice that it is more difficult to fall asleep because of stuffed or runny sinuses. This blockage prevents you from staying asleep, just as with sleep apnea. But are Sleep Apnea and sinus infections related, and can you avoid Sleep Apnea by treating sinusitis?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder while sinusitis is a temporary infection. Sinusitis will eventually clear itself or may be treated with antibiotics. Once you have successfully treated sinus problems, you will not suffer from breathing problems at night caused by a sinus infection.

However, if you have chronic or reoccurring sinusitis, this increases your risk of Sleep Apnea caused by nasal congestion. Sleep Apnea, on the other hand, cannot be treated with antibiotics and will not clear up on its own.

Note that there are two types of nasal congestion that can increase your risk factor for OSA:

  • If you have nasal congestion due to an anatomical problem, this can cause a chronic loss of sleep resulting in Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Surgery is the solution in this case.
  • If you have chronic allergies that consistently prevent you from having clear nasal passages, then you may develop Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Allergy treatment can resolve Sleep Apnea symptoms.

To be diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, you will want to get a sleep apnea test from a medical provider or sleep study clinic. Based on your sleep test results, your doctor may likely recommend CPAP machines for treating Sleep Apnea.

Can Sleep Apnea Be Caused by Allergies?

As noted, chronic allergies can lead to Sleep Apnea. However, having allergies does not automatically mean you will be diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. For example, if you suffer from seasonal allergies that last for a few weeks in the spring and fall, then you most likely will not have OSA due to allergies. On the other hand, if you experience chronic allergies throughout the year, this can create long-term breathing issues.

Learn More About Sleep Apnea and Sinusitis

If you would like to learn more about the connection between Sleep Apnea and sinusitis, we have the resources for you. CPAP.com maintains the most comprehensive resource about Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Along with reports on Sleep Apnea and sinus infections, we also discuss the effects of Sleep Apnea on the brain and other exciting news.

CPAP.com was founded in 1999 with the goal of providing affordable equipment for Sleep Apnea sufferers. Today our family owned and operated business has more than 1,000 different products for Sleep Apnea patients. Contact CPAP.com and subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest news and the most effective treatments for Sleep Apnea.

David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.

21 Comments

  1. albert kapustar Reply

    I would like to know more on how to treat sinititus as i have a chronic blocked nose especially when i sleeep but in winter imy nose is blocked full time

  2. Quick Pamela Reply

    Thank you, for the extra information! I’ve been using a CPAP machine for just over a year! When I got use to the mask, I started sleeping much better! Sleep apnea was my problem. Now I have more energy during the da and no more daytime naps needed!

    • Hey Pamela, Congratulations on getting some better sleep! I am glad to hear that you found the article helpful. Please let us know if we can be of any assistance. We can be reached at: 1-800-356-5221.

      Enjoy your day!

  3. Laura desouza Reply

    If one have a breathing pattern, like a pause in between breathing is that considered sleep apnea.
    Thank you

    • Hi Laura, pausing in between breathing could be an indication of Sleep Apnea. If you suspect that there may be pause breathing patterns during your sleep it is recommended that you contact your doctor so that you may receive a sleep study for a proper diagnosis.

      If you have any further questions, or concerns please feel free to reach us at: 1-800-356-5221.

      Enjoy your day!

  4. Steve OBrien Reply

    The question I am interested in is not what is the connection between sinusitis and sleep apnea but what is the connection between sinusitis and CPAP/APAP machine use.

    I love the information you provide. Thanks.

    • Hey Steve, I am glad that you enjoyed the information from the the article. It has been found over time that those who are treating obstructive sleep apnea with continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) are more prone to sinus infections than those who do not suffer from OSA in any degree.

      I would encourage you to speak with your doctor to determine if there is any direct correlation between CPAP use and Sinusitis. In the meantime, to decrease the possibility of developing Sinusitis from CPAP use, please make sure you are disinfecting your equipment to avoid the development of bacteria.

      Also, please make sure you are changing your filters in your machine on a regular basis so that you are not breathing germs and pollutants. Some folks find using a humidifier, which adds moisture to their therapy helpful as well.

      Please feel free to reach us at: 1-800-356-5221 for further questions, or concerns.

      Enjoy your day!

    • Hey Brian, OBS is referred to as Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This type of Apnea disorder occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and blocks your airway during sleep.

      Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance. We can be reached at: 1-800-356-5221.

      Have a great day!

  5. Martha Amalia Padilla Reply

    Fuí diagnosticada con apnea obstructiva del sueño y desde hace 4 años uso CPAP. Mi vida mejoró notablemente: la presión arterial se normalizó y duermo muy bien.

  6. Using a chinstrap or taping your mouth shut to promote nasal breathing while asleep will often prevent nasal occlusion in the long run.

    Using a Neti pot and bathing or showering before bed can help as well.

  7. I’ve been on cpap since June 2018, and suffered continuously from severe sinus infections, constant runny nose and violent and continuous sneezing, (treated with antibiotics, and finally, Augmentin/clav 800 mg twice), until January 2019. I spent $600.00 out of pocket for extra masks, plus the masks that my insurance provided, trying to alleviate the horrific suffering…never could get to sleep before 4am! 😣 I found that the nasal masks (which I absolutely prefer because of the comfort), all made me sick, and all of them were made of the cloudy silicone! The Amara View (which has the clear silicone), was the first mask that didn’t make me sick, (although it leaks too frequently!) However, I’m still on it…THIS IS A HORRIBLE WAY TO LIVE! The Air Touch and one other that I have tried seem okay as well, and both have the CLEAR silicone.
    My Request is that the companies are informed that the cloudy appearing silicone DOES cause major sinus allergies. (I have read the responses of MANY patients online)…. AND THE COMPANIES NEED TO (ADDITIONALLY) MAKE NASAL AND ALL OTHER MASKS WITH THE CLEAR SILICONE…TO PREVENT THE SUFFERING AND PROVIDE BETTER AND LESS CUMBERSOME/PROBLEMATIC CHOICES.

  8. Can I give my partner a sinus infection if I have one and the air from the cpap blows in their face while they are ssleep?

  9. I have been waking up with big headaches and often get sleepy during the day im currently 19 years old. Is it possible i have sleep apenea. I have sinus probles so i think this is whats causing this.

    • Hey Serafin, i’m very sorry to hear about the headaches and sleepiness that you are experiencing. There is a possibility that you may have Sleep Apnea, but keep in mind that headaches and sleepiness does not necessarily mean you have Sleep Apnea.

      My suggestion would be for you to contact your doctor regarding your symptoms so that a medical determination can be made on if you should have a Sleep Study.

      Please reach us at: 1-800-356-5221 for further questions, or concerns.

      We wish you the best!

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