How to sleep better with asthma?

Health | 5/12/2022
How to sleep better with asthma?
Is your asthma or COPD keeping you from a good night’s sleep? Sleep is so important for getting you through each day and refreshing you mentally and physically. If you’re waking up to coughing or wheezing, here are four practical steps to help you deal with night-time symptoms.

1. Feeling good night and day

Why do asthma symptoms tend to get worse during the night? For most people, it’s a combination of factors including increased exposure to allergens, cooling of airways, and even just the act of lying down flat, and going to sleep.

When we sleep our airways tend to get narrow which may cause increased airflow resistance, or wheezing. This can trigger coughing in some people, which further tightens the airways, and could even lead to an asthma attack.

If you’re having sleeping difficulties, it could be a reminder to cut down on those late nights. However, nocturnal flare ups could also be a sign that your asthma is not being correctly controlled.

If sleep disruption persists for more than a few days, it would be wise to check in with your doctor to see if your medication needs adjusting.

2. Goodbye to nocturnal triggers

Whatever triggers your asthma symptoms during the day could also become problematic at night. Dust mites are known to exacerbate night-time asthma symptoms, and they love to get buried in the bedcovers. So, it’s a good idea to vacuum every corner of your bedroom regularly and to wash your bedding on a high heat.

Is the temperature in your room too hot or too cold? For some people temperature can be a night-time trigger. If you’re experiencing a dry cough, you could consider installing a humidifier. Another common night trigger can be a high pollen count but that’s easily fixed by keeping windows shut firmly and taking an allergy medication.

3. Breathe easier, sleep better

We all know how hard it is to sleep with a cold or a persistent cough. Good sleep equals healthy and clear air passages. Yet, even gravity has an effect on night-time breathing. When we lie down flat, our chest area naturally collapses into a more relaxed state but this can put pressure on the lungs. If it’s comfortable for you, try propping yourself up on a higher pillow as you sleep.

Some asthma sufferers also benefit from Positive Expiratory Pressure, or PEP, which involves exhaling into a mask or bottle. This helps remove mucus and enlarge the airways and should be done at least 1 to 2 hours before you go to bed.

Consider testing for sleep apnea. People with asthma are at greater risk for sleep apnea, and both disorders could adversely influence each other. Sleep apnea causes breaks in your sleep breathing, which can worsen your symptoms.

4. A calming sanctuary

The advice for anyone suffering from sleeplessness is to convert the bedroom into a stress-free haven. Make your bedroom a place that’s just for sleeping and relaxing.

Consider designing some bedtime rituals that make you happy as well as support your asthma management. Maybe you’ve heard the old saying ”never go to bed mad”. If you live with others, try to avoid conflict at bedtime.

Deep breathing is also important before sleep. Meditation or yoga are ideal pre-sleep activities, or maybe you prefer a brisk walk in the fresh air. Find what resonates best with you, but keep in mind that a healthy fatigue makes the best pillow.


This article was compiled with expert input from Kaisa Toikko, expert at the Finnish Allergy, Skin and Asthma Federation.



Dixit R. Asthma and obstructive sleep apnea: More than an association!. Lung India. 2018;35(3):191-192.

Jennifer Y. So, Albert J. Mamary, Kartik Shenoy. Asthma: Diagnosis and treatment EMJ. 2018;3[4]:111-121.


By Laurel Colless

Photo by iStock

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Orion Corporation is a globally operating Finnish pharmaceutical company. We develop, manufacture and market human and veterinary pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients. The dry powder inhaler developed at Orion is in the core of our respiratory therapy area.