Why Is Asthma Keeping Me Awake? How Long Does it Last & Treatment Update 05/2024

Swelling of the bronchial tubes is a hallmark of asthma. Bronchial tubes are the body’s airways, allowing for the movement of air into and out of the respiratory system. Symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath are caused by swollen airways. Allergens and irritants are more easily detected in those with swollen airways. Asthma attacks, episodes, and flare-ups are all terms used to describe when the symptoms of asthma become more severe than usual.

It’s believed that one in every 12 persons in the United States suffers from asthma, and the prevalence of the condition has been on the rise. Asthma’s global prevalence has climbed by 50% every decade over the past 40 years. Researchers aren’t sure what’s causing this rise, although some think it could be due to changes in cleanliness, the use of certain drugs in youngsters, rising obesity rates, or a lack of vitamin D.

Why Is Asthma Keeping Me Awake?

At night, you’re more likely to experience asthma symptoms. However, you don’t have to put up with them. You may be at risk of having an asthma attack if you have symptoms of the disease at night.

Even if you’re not aware of it, if you wake up with symptoms in the morning, it could be an indication that your asthma has been particularly challenging throughout the night.

Listed here are a few possible explanations for why you’re having trouble sleeping:

  • How you sleep – if you sleep on your back, your chest and lungs are subjected to additional pressure. As a result, it’s more difficult to breathe. Coughing can be brought on by nasal mucus dripping into the back of the throat. If you suffer from acid reflux, lying down might exacerbate the problem and irritate your lungs. Pillows can help keep your airways open as you sleep.
  • Side effects – Sleep disturbances are common side effects of various asthma medications. Medicines like montelukast, for example, have been linked to sleep problems (in up to 1 in 100 people). Since taking steroid tablets before breakfast in the morning may make it difficult to fall asleep, your doctor may urge you to do so if you are having trouble sleeping.
  • Triggers – Asthma triggers can be found in the bedroom. Dust mites on your mattress, pillows, and blankets, as well as pet dander and mold, are just a few examples. Those who suffer from hay fever may discover that their symptoms worsen at night when pollen levels are at their peak in the morning and evening.
  • Hot or cold air – If your room is too hot to sleep in, you may want to use a fan to keep the air moving. Your symptoms may also be triggered by the cold air. If you have to, keep the windows closed and the heating on a low setting in the bedroom.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase in asthma symptoms. Speak to your doctor or asthma nurse if you’re having trouble sleeping and it’s impacting your asthma.

What Should I Do When My Asthma Symptoms Wake Me Up?

Keep your head elevated and follow the directions on the relief inhaler (typically blue). Inhalers and spacers (if you use them) should be kept near your bed so you don’t have to go looking for them during the night.

According to Dr. Andy Whittamore, in-house GP at Asthma UK, “give yourself a bit of time to check your reliever drug has dealt with your symptoms before you go back to sleep. Asthma sufferers should avoid falling asleep right away, only to wake up in the middle of the night with asthma symptoms since their reliever didn’t do enough.

Having trouble breathing at night can cause worry and anxiety in people with asthma. When faced with worry or panic, some people find that practicing breathing exercises help.

Asthma and Sleep

When asthma is aggravated by sleep deprivation, it can lead to more severe symptoms. Asthma attacks are more likely to occur if you don’t get enough sleep, which causes inflammation in the body and inhibits lung function.

Getting less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours a night results in 1.5 times more asthma attacks and a lower health-related quality of life, according to a new study. Asthma medication side effects and other health issues, such as sleep disturbances, can both contribute to insomnia in patients with the disease.

Asthma symptoms may worsen or worsen during the night for some people. At night, people can suffer from nocturnal asthma, which disrupts their sleep and may indicate a more severe or poorly controlled form of asthma.

Nocturnal Asthma

At least 75% of persons with asthma are woken up by nighttime symptoms at least once a week because of nocturnal asthma. Asthma-related nighttime symptoms affect about 40% of patients with the disease. Asthma that is poorly controlled or more severe increases the risk of nocturnal symptoms.

We don’t know why asthma symptoms worsen at night, but it’s possible they’re linked to the typical hormonal shifts that occur in the evening. Many hormones, such as epinephrine, cortisol, and melatonin, have 24-hour cycles that are linked to the body’s internal clock. Nocturnal changes in these hormones may increase the risk of nocturnal asthma symptoms by contributing to airway inflammation. Asthma symptoms might be exacerbated or masked by changes in the mother’s hormones during pregnancy.

Obesity can also raise the risk of nighttime asthma and make it more difficult to treat asthma. Obese persons may have a higher risk of developing nocturnal asthma because of an increased risk of developing excess fat around the throat and greater systemic inflammation.

Another medical problem typically linked to nocturnal asthma is acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). As many as 80% of asthmatics have symptoms of GERD, such as heartburn and regurgitation.

Nocturnal Asthma Triggers

It is not only obesity, acid reflux disease, and circadian hormonal abnormalities that can cause nighttime asthma.

  • Tobacco smoke: The lungs and airways can become inflamed and weakened as a result of smoking and passive tobacco smoke exposure.
  • Allergens in the bedroom: Pollen, animal dander, dust mites, and insect droppings such as cockroaches and rodent excrement are common allergens for patients with asthma. It is possible for people to suffer from asthma even though they have been exposed to certain allergens during the day.
  • Diet: Sulfites, which are found in beer, wine, dried fruit, processed potatoes, and shrimp, can cause allergic reactions in certain persons with asthma. Nocturnal asthma can be triggered if certain meals are ingested too close to bedtime.
  • Medications: Nocturnal asthma can be triggered by a number of medications, including certain cold treatments, aspirin, vitamins, and eye drops.
  • Cold air: As well as being a daytime trigger, exposure to cold air (from an open window, for example) can also cause symptoms at night.
  • Other medical issues: Nighttime asthma attacks are frequently triggered by viral diseases such as colds, flu, and sinus infections.

Nocturnal Asthma and Children

It’s more common in children than adults and the most common chronic illness among children worldwide. A child’s behavioral and developmental issues can be exacerbated if nocturnal asthma is misdiagnosed or mistreated, and this is particularly true for children.

Children with nocturnal asthma sometimes go undetected because their evening symptoms are either underestimated or not reported. As a result, parents should keep a close eye on their children’s health and notify their doctor if they see any unusual symptoms. Wheezing, sleep disturbances, drowsiness throughout the day, and difficulty concentrating at school are all possible symptoms.

Asthma and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

OSA is a sleep disorder in which the airways narrow or collapses while you’re sleeping (a.k.a. snoring). Asthma and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) syndrome share many of the same symptoms and appear to be linked. If you’ve got one of these respiratory ailments, you’re more likely to have another. OSA is more likely among asthmatics who also snore, as well as in those who have trouble controlling their asthma symptoms.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may be an issue for people with asthma. The higher risk of OSA in people with asthma suggests that screenings for the condition on a regular basis may be beneficial for those individuals. However, treating OSA has been shown to reduce the severity of asthma symptoms in many patients.

Controlling Asthma

In many cases, the symptoms of asthma can be controlled by working with a doctor or allergist to develop a customized Asthma Action Plan. Asthma management often entails the use of asthma drugs as well as the development of a strategy for avoiding situations that aggravate asthma symptoms. Asthma treatments are divided into two categories: quick-relief medicines that treat asthma attacks and long-term control therapies that prevent future attacks.

A yearly visit to your doctor to discuss your Asthma Action Plan is recommended by the American Lung Association. Asthma can still get out of hand even if you have the best plan in place. A healthcare practitioner should be called immediately if a person with asthma experiences new symptoms or has difficulty performing everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning, or bathing.

Avoiding Nighttime Asthma and Improving Sleep

Asthma can make it difficult to obtain a good night’s sleep, so it’s important to develop healthy sleep habits. An important first step is to work on improving one’s sleep hygiene. People with asthma can avoid unnecessary daytime exhaustion by adhering to a regular sleep schedule and establishing healthy daytime routines.

Nocturnal asthma and sleep deprivation can be exacerbated by asthma triggers in the bedroom. Here are some recommendations for creating the optimum bedroom atmosphere for healthy overnight sleep and preventing nighttime asthma symptoms:

  • Reducing bedroom allergens: Asthma can be triggered by dust mites and bug remnants in the bedroom. Eliminating or minimizing your exposure to these stressors can have a significant impact on your overall health and wellbeing. Vacuum and dust your home on a weekly basis and wash your linens frequently. It’s also a good idea to use allergen-proof bedding, such as hypoallergenic pillows, and mattress covers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide a helpful guide on asthma prevention at home.
  • Keep pets outside the bedroom: A common asthma trigger is pet dander and saliva. Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep pets out of the bedroom altogether. Changing your clothes before going to bed might help keep your bed free of pet dander.
  • Be careful with scented products: Asthma sufferers may be sensitive to the smells of cleaning goods, candles, and personal hygiene products. For those who suffer from nighttime asthma, consider making the bedroom odor and scent-free.
  • De-stress before bed: Asthma can be triggered by stress. Stress-related asthma episodes can be lessened by establishing a regular bedtime routine that includes soothing activities like listening to soft music, taking a warm bath, or reading a book. Our guide to sleep-inducing relaxation activities may be useful.
  • Close the windows: Asthmatics are well aware that sudden changes in temperature, humidity, and air quality can trigger an asthma attack. When you go to sleep at night, keep the windows of your room closed to minimize the effects of outside allergens and pollutants. In some cases, adjusting the temperature and humidity in the bedroom or purchasing an air filter may also be beneficial.
  • Keep asthma medication nearby: At night, asthma attacks can be particularly difficult to control. You should have your asthma meds, as well as a glass of water, near your bed in case you need them at night.

3 best sleep positions for asthma

1. Lie on your back with your shoulders and neck elevated.

Using two, three, or more pillows to raise your neck and shoulders while you sleep will help clear your airways. Sleeping with pillows beneath your shoulders boosts the drainage of your sinuses during the night, allowing you to keep breathing comfortably as you sleep.

2. Lie on your left side with a pillow between your legs.

The left side of your body may assist alleviate symptoms of asthma if you’re a side sleeper, especially if you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux (commonly known as heartburn). As a result of gravity, the esophageal-to-stomach angle, and the form of your stomach, sleeping on your left side can prevent reflux. If sleeping on your left side with a pillow between your knees doesn’t make you more comfortable, try lying on your left side with your head lifted.

Adding a pillow to your bed may help keep your spine in a stable position throughout the night, allowing you to breathe more comfortably.

3. Lie on your back with your head elevated and your knees bent with a pillow under knees.

Sleeping on one’s side might be a challenge for some people. Add a knee pillow if you prefer sleeping face down on your back with a pillow supported up by the shoulders and the head.

In order to keep your body in a steady position while you sleep, you may want to add an additional pillow to your bed.

When To See Your GP or Asthma Nurse

At times, symptoms of nocturnal asthma can be so severe that you should seek medical attention.

A medical expert should be seen if you wake up in the night with asthma symptoms more frequently than once a week, regardless of the use of therapy. Possibly, they will have to alter your treatment strategy.

In addition, a medical practitioner can offer advice on how to establish a regular sleep routine, deal with GERD, and reduce stress in order to enhance sleep quality and lessen the symptoms of nocturnal asthma.

Tips From Other People With Asthma

You’re not alone if your asthma is keeping you awake at night. Asthma sufferers tell us that the following things help them sleep well at night:

  • Unclog your nose using a decongestant or nasal spray (but test this out during the day first – some people find decongestant products containing eucalyptus trigger their asthma symptoms).
  • Keep moving throughout the day to strengthen your lungs and improve your overall health. Consult your doctor or an asthma nurse if you require assistance with physical activity.
  • Use hypoallergenic duvet coverings and keep pets out of the bedroom if possible.
  • Allergy symptoms that set off your asthma might be alleviated by utilizing an air purifier.
  • Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided right before night, as they are known to cause asthma flare-ups.
    Before going to bed, do some breathing exercises or some yoga to wind down and relax.

Breathing problems that occur while you sleep are referred to as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Our sister organization, the British Lung Foundation, provides more information on OSA.

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