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Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep with Asthma

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The most recent findings of the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll suggest that 65 percent of Americans feel they need a good amount of sleep to be productive during waking hours. However, only 10 percent say they actually prioritize getting enough sleep for the next day.

If sleep isn’t a priority for you, it should be — especially if you have asthma. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need at least seven or more hours of sleep to achieve optimal health and overall well-being.

If, like me, you’re living with asthma, you know firsthand how it can disturb your sleep. Such issues may leave you feeling restless and hesitant to go to bed.

Coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness are among the most common sleep issues for people with asthma. According to a 2014 study, up to 90 percent of people with asthma report some wheezing or coughing at night. This is called nocturnal asthma.

There are a variety of reasons for these sleep issues, including a disturbance in your circadian rhythm (the level of wakefulness day or night). Increased airway resistance as you’re lying down could also be the reason.

I’ve experienced one, if not all, of these issues at one time or another. It’s usually caused by asthma triggers, illness, or stress. It’s not uncommon to wake up feeling groggy in the morning or tired throughout the day. It’s easy to chalk it up to a bad night’s sleep, but it may be more than that.

Recognizing how asthma affects your sleep is the first step in learning how to cope and get a more restful night. So, how can you manage to get a good night’s rest if you have asthma? Let’s dive into that here.

How do I cope with these issues?

Adhere to your doctor’s advice

Your healthcare provider can help you manage your asthma symptoms. It’s important to adhere to your treatment and contact them if you have any questions.

If you don’t have a treatment plan or think you need a revised one, talk to your doctor about what’s best for you and your needs.

Try pursed lip breathing       

Pursed lip breathing can release trapped air in your lungs, improve ventilation, slow your breathing rate, provide general relaxation, and more. It’s helpful for more than just asthma symptoms and worth mastering. I’ve found this technique to be beneficial when I’m having trouble breathing.

This is how it works:

  • First, breathe in slowly for two seconds.
  • Next, pucker your lips as if you’re going to whistle and breathe out slowly while counting to four.

It feels strange at first, but the more you practice, the easier it will be to perform when you’re having difficulty breathing.

Talk to your doctor about sleep apnea

If you find yourself waking up often, or having severe difficulty breathing, you may want to get tested for sleep apnea. According to the American Thoracic Society, people with asthma are at risk of developing sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes you to stop breathing repeatedly while sleeping. It can cause sleep disturbances, daytime tiredness, and irritability.

Your doctor can refer you to a sleep disorder center or have you complete a home sleep test, depending on the severity of your symptoms. They can also help find an appropriate management plan if you do have sleep apnea or other sleep disturbances.

Clean your bedroom regularly

Dust mites are a common asthma trigger. Cleaning your bedroom often will help to minimize its effects. You should use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter and rid your bedroom of dust mites and their waste.

Additionally, washing your bedding weekly can help keep dust mites away. I personally have zippered allergy covers on my mattress and pillows to help keep dust mites out of my bedding and have noticed a difference.

Consider a humidifier

I only started using a humidifier two years ago. I didn’t realize how much I needed it — especially in the winter time when it’s cold and dry, and when I’m cranking up the heater in my home. The dry heat can be irritating to my throat and nose, and I’ve found that using a humidifier helps ease those symptoms.

It’s always good to talk with your doctor first. While humidifiers may help to ease breathing, they can also increase dust mites and mold spores in your home. This can further exacerbate your asthma symptoms, especially if you also have allergies.

Your doctor will be able to tell you if your symptoms might be improved by using a humidifier, and can discuss any safety precautions you should take when using one.


Sleep is an integral part of our lives and helps us operate at our full potential every day. Addressing these common sleep issues will not only help you feel better, but also help you take control of your asthma symptoms and sleep more peacefully.

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