Sleep Longer and Better With These 9 Helpful Tips
More than 75% of people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) have trouble falling and staying asleep.
Why? COPD symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and pain keep them up at night.
To complicate the matter further, other causes also can make sleeping more difficult for people with COPD, including:
- Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, a condition that interrupts or stops your breathing as you sleep
- Conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which happens when stomach acid flows back into your esophagus
Poor sleep increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, high blood pressure, daytime sleepiness, and mood swings.
“It’s critical that people with COPD sleep well,” says Lesley Williams, Apria’s Market Clinical Trainer and a registered respiratory therapist. “This article provides 9 simple, effective tips to help improve how much and how well you sleep.”
1. Test and Treat for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea affects 18 million Americans. It occurs because your airways become obstructed when you sleep, which decreases the amount of oxygen delivered to vital organs. Symptoms include loud snoring, gasping for air while sleeping, and difficulty staying asleep.
If your doctor suspects you have sleep apnea, you will be scheduled for an overnight sleep study called a polysomnogram (PSG).
If the diagnosis is sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend a treatment called CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). This popular, proven therapy involves wearing a mask over your nose or mouth while sleeping. The mask is connected to a machine that delivers a constant flow of air to keep your airways open so you can breathe—and sleep—normally.
Another popular therapy, that not only treats sleep apnea but also symptoms of COPD, is non-invasive ventilation (NIV) therapy. NIV does not require a PSG but may require certain blood or breathing tests, such as an arterial blood gas test (ABG) or pulmonary function test (PFT).
2. Change Your Sleeping Position
Conditions such as shortness of breath and GERD can flare up when lying down. Try sleeping in a slightly upright position, with your head a bit higher than your body. This reduces stress on your lungs and helps prevent acid from backing up into your esophagus.
If your sleeping position is causing you to have insomnia, you may want to speak with your doctor about nighttime supplemental oxygen therapy.
3. Review Your Meds with Your Doctor
Some medications (such as inhaled theophylline or prednisone) help control COPD symptoms but may interrupt sleep. Review your medications with your doctor, who will make any needed adjustments.
If pain due to COPD disrupts your sleep, be sure to tell your doctor, who will help you manage it.
4. Create an Ideal Sleep Environment
There’s nothing more inviting than a safe, comfortable bedroom. Research shows that people sleep better when their bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool. Most sleep experts recommend keeping the temperature around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius).
When designing your bedroom, choose calming colors such as yellow, green, or blue. You may also want to infuse soothing scents such as lavender and peppermint to help you sleep better.
And keep your bedroom tidy. A cluttered bedroom can stress you out!
5. Stick to a Consistent Sleep Routine
Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. And follow the same ritual for getting ready for bed, such as: take a warm bath, brush your teeth, read, meditate.
6. Say No to Napping
But if you must, keep it short—under 30 minutes—and don’t nap in the late afternoon. Short naps can be refreshing and restore your energy. But long naps late in the day can keep you up at night.
7. Unplug Your Electronic Devices
At least 30 minutes before you go to bed, turn off all your screens, including your TV, tablet, computer, and cell phone.
Besides being distracting, these devices emit a blue light that suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone your body produces to help you fall asleep.
8. Watch What You Eat and Drink
Don’t indulge in a big, heavy meal before bedtime. Avoid spicy foods, fatty and greasy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and excessive amounts of sugary foods or liquids, which can upset your stomach before bed.
And don’t drink excessive amounts of fluids later in the day, which may cause you to make multiple trips to the bathroom.
9. Get Moving!
Want to sleep better at night? Keep active during the day. Talk to your doctor about creating an exercise program that’s right for you.
Yoga is a particularly good exercise for people with COPD because it teaches you how to control your breathing. Studies have found that yoga improves sleep and reduces shortness of breath.
Sticking to an exercise program offers numerous health benefits:
- Helps your body use oxygen more efficiently
- Builds strength
- Increases energy
- Decreases feelings of anxiety and depression
- Improves endurance
Don’t Lose Sleep Over COPD!
Want to feel your best? Look your best? Perform at your best? Then you need a good night’s sleep each and every night.
Lesley says, “Follow these 9 steps to better sleep. But if you continue to have sleep issues, contact your doctor. Working together, you can put your sleep problems to bed.”
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2. Budhiraja R, Siddiq TA, Quan SF. Sleep Disorders in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Etiology, Impact, and Management. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2015;11(3):259-270.
3. Ragland, L. (2022, June 27). Sleep Tips for People With COPD. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/lung/copd/copd-sleep-tips.
4. Orenstein, BW. (2021, October 18). 10 Ways to Sleep Better With COPD.
Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/managing-copd/sleep-tips-for-copd/.
5. Lashkari, C. (2019, February 26). COPD and Sleep Apnea. News Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/health/COPD-and-Sleep-Apnea.aspx.
6. Edwards, M. (Updated 2023, May 19). Overlap Syndrome: COPD and Sleep Apnea. SleepApnea.org. https://www.sleepapnea.org/overlap-syndrome/.
7. Nunez, K. (2021, July 19). Concurrent Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/copd-and-sleep-apnea.
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