COPD and Sleep:  Achieving a Good Night’s Rest

COPD and Sleep: Achieving a Good Night’s Rest

Many people with COPD find it hard to sleep well because of coughing, difficulty breathing, and worry. If you have trouble sleeping, you're not alone. Up to 75% (3 in 4) of people with COPD struggle to fall asleep, wake up a lot during the night, or feel tired when they wake up. Getting good sleep isn't just nice to have—it's important for managing COPD.

Poor sleep can make COPD symptoms worse, leaving you tired and breathless during the day. And COPD itself can disturb your sleep, making you feel tired and affecting your daily life. It's a cycle that's hard to break, but there are ways to help. Sleep apnea, a condition where you stop and start breathing during sleep, can make COPD symptoms worse and needs to be checked by your doctor.

Why is sleep important for COPD patients?

Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being. For COPD patients, quality sleep is even more vital as it helps conserve energy, reduces symptoms, and improves lung function. Adequate rest can also enhance mood, cognitive function, and immune system function, leading to a better quality of life.

Here's how sleep and COPD are linked:

  • Your muscles relax when you sleep, making it harder to breathe, especially if you have COPD.
  • Not getting enough sleep can make inflammation in your body worse, irritating your airways and making COPD symptoms worse.
  • Stress and worry about COPD can make it hard to sleep.

Common sleep problems in COPD patients

COPD can disrupt sleep in various ways, including:

  • Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Sleep apnea: Interruptions in breathing during sleep, leading to frequent awakenings.
  • Nocturnal coughing: Persistent coughing at night, making it hard to sleep.
  • Restless leg syndrome: Uncomfortable sensations in the legs, causing an irresistible urge to move them.

Tips for better sleep with COPD

There's good news: improving your sleep can make a big difference in how you feel with COPD. Here are some tips to help you sleep better:

1. Establish a consistent sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to regulate your body's internal clock.

2. Create a sleep-friendly environment: Make your bedroom comfortable, quiet, and dark. Use earplugs, eye masks, or white noise machines if needed.

3. Practice relaxation techniques: Deep breathing exercises, meditation, or gentle stretching before bedtime can help calm your mind and body. Learn three useful breathing techniques here. 

4. Elevate your upper body: Use pillows or a bed wedge to prop yourself up, allowing for easier breathing and reducing coughing.

5. Avoid stimulants: Limit or avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, as they can interfere with sleep quality.

6. Stay active: Engage in regular physical activity during the day, but avoid exercising close to bedtime.

7. Follow your prescribed COPD treatment: Take your medications and inhalers as directed and use any prescribed oxygen therapy to manage symptoms and improve sleep. Participate in a pulmonary rehabilitation program and learn breathing techniques that help you breathe better and reduce air-trapping.


When to seek professional help

If you continue to experience sleep problems despite implementing these strategies, it's essential to consult your healthcare provider. They can evaluate your condition, identify any underlying issues, and recommend appropriate interventions, such as pulmonary rehabilitation or sleep studies. If you think you have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about it. Treating sleep apnea can improve your sleep and how you feel with COPD.

Remember, improving your sleep with COPD is a gradual process. Be patient with yourself and give your body the time it needs to adjust. By prioritizing restful sleep, you can enhance your well-being and enjoy a better quality of life.

This blog is for information only. Talk to your doctor for personalized advice about managing your COPD and sleep problems.