Updated at: 11-03-2022 - By: Jane

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

Nocturnal asthma can be triggered by a wide range of environmental factors in addition to obesity and GERD.

  • 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: Dust mites, mouse and cockroach droppings, animal dander, mold, and pollen are all triggers for many asthmatics. The delayed allergic response can cause asthma to come up even if they are exposed to these allergens during the day.
  • Diet: Beer, wine, dried fruit, processed potatoes, and shrimp contain sulfites, which might cause an allergic reaction in certain persons with asthma. These foods may cause nocturnal asthma if ingested too soon to bedtime.
  • Medications: When taken too close to bedtime, some medications, such as aspirin, vitamins, and even eye drops, can cause nocturnal asthma.
  • Cold air: Cold air is a common trigger during the day, and it can also cause symptoms at night if the bedroom is excessively cold or if a window is left open during that time of night.
  • Other medical issues: Some of the most common causes of nocturnal asthma attacks include viral infections such as colds, flu, and sinus infections.

Nocturnal Asthma and Children

When compared to other chronic diseases, asthma is far more common in children than it is in adults. Because of the link between nocturnal asthma symptoms including sleep loss and excessive daytime sleepiness and behavioral and developmental problems, it is critical that children with nocturnal asthma be properly diagnosed and treated.

Children with nocturnal asthma sometimes go undetected because their evening symptoms are either underestimated or not reported. For this reason, parents should keep an eye on their children’s health and notify their doctor if they see any unusual symptoms. These symptoms include wheezing, insomnia, daytime drowsiness, and academic difficulties.

Asthma and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

A condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) causes the airways to become obstructed or collapse during sleep. In both asthma and OSA, symptoms overlap and appear to be linked in a bidirectional manner. 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. Asthma patients are at a greater risk of developing OSA, and research suggests that screenings for OSA on a regular basis could benefit them. Asthma symptoms can often be reduced by treating OSA.

Controlling Asthma

With the help of an allergist or pulmonologist (lung specialist), asthma symptoms can often be controlled through the creation of 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. Both quick-relief and long-term asthma treatments are available to treat the symptoms of a flare-up, as well as to prevent future episodes.

A yearly visit to your doctor to discuss your Asthma Action Plan is recommended by the American Lung Association. Asthma still has the ability to spiral out of control, even the best-laid plans. Asthma sufferers should seek medical attention as soon as they notice any new symptoms or difficulty performing daily tasks like 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. A good place to start is by changing your sleep habits. In order to control their asthma symptoms, asthmatic patients need to create regular sleep patterns and good daytime routines.

You may be more susceptible to nocturnal asthma if your bedroom contains triggers for your condition. Here are some helpful hints for avoiding nocturnal asthma attacks, in addition to working with your doctor to find ways to reduce or eliminate asthma triggers:

  • Reducing bedroom allergens: Asthma can be triggered by the presence of dust mites and pesticides in the bedroom. These triggers can be eliminated or reduced to make a tremendous effect. Be sure to wash your bedding on a regular basis and vacuum and dust on a weekly basis. Allergen-proof bedding, such as hypoallergenic pillows and mattress covers, may also be beneficial. The CDC has a useful guide for reducing asthma triggers at home that you can check out for more information.
  • Keep pets outside the bedroom: Several studies have shown that pet dander and saliva are common triggers for asthma. Pets should not be allowed in the bedroom at all, even if you regularly vacuum and dust. Change your clothes before going to bed to avoid bringing pet dander into your bed.
  • Be careful with scented products: Some patients with asthma may be irritated by the strong aromas of household cleaners, candles, and cosmetics. 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 weather, temperature, and air quality fluctuations can trigger attacks. 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 installing an air filter may also be beneficial.
  • Keep asthma medication nearby: When it comes to controlling asthma, treating nighttime asthma attacks is critical. Asthma medications and water should be kept close to the bed in case they are needed in the middle of the 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. Pillows under your shoulders can help keep your sinuses from draining too much at night so that you can maintain breathing comfortably while you sleep.

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

If you have asthma and are a side sleeper, laying on your left side may assist, especially if you have heartburn, which can set off asthma attacks, particularly at night. When you sleep on your left side, gravity, the shape of your stomach, and the angle at which your esophagus connects to your stomach all work together to prevent reflux. A pillow between your knees may be all that’s needed to keep you comfortable while you sleep, but if that doesn’t work, try lying on your left side with your head up.

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 can be too much of a departure for some people. Additional pillows can be added beneath the knees if you prefer resting on your back with your head and shoulders propped up by pillows.

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

Even though nocturnal asthma is frequent, it is important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms when they get more severe.

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. There’s a chance they’ll have to adjust your treatment.

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 the only one who has trouble sleeping because of their asthma. Asthma sufferers have shared with us some of the items that help them get a good night’s rest:

  • If you have a stuffy nose, try using a nasal spray or decongestants (but test this out during the day first – some people find decongestant products containing eucalyptus trigger their asthma symptoms).
  • Increase your lung capacity and strengthen your immune system by staying active throughout the day. Find out if your doctor or an asthma nurse can help you get the exercise you need.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom and use anti-allergy bedding covers.
  • Allergy symptoms that set off your asthma might be alleviated by utilizing an air purifier.
  • Caffeine and alcohol, both asthma triggers, should be avoided in the hours leading up tonight.
    Breathing exercises and yoga might help you wind down before going to sleep.

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

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