COPD and sleeping problems are a common issue. Let’s change that.
This may sound obvious, but sleep is important. Not only does sleep help our bodies maintain homeostasis (when our bodies run the way they’re supposed to), but it also gives us our energy for the day ahead and allows us to rest. A lack of adequate sleep can have significant effects on our cognition, physical health and memory. Any disturbances to this sleep—or worse, lack thereof in the case of insomnia—can have an incredibly detrimental effect on our overall health.
Unfortunately, in the case of those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), frequent disturbances during sleep are routine. As those who have COPD and sleeping problems can attest, a struggle to breathe even during sleep is a common occurrence. It keeps an individual up at night and truly fighting to get a good night’s sleep in many cases.
We spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping, and for good reason: we need to. So, in the spirit of catching a good night’s sleep, and with your health in mind, the Lung Health Institute is here to breakdown the complexities of COPD and Sleeping Problems: How to Sleep Better.
Set a Schedule and Stick to It
When it comes to promoting the best sleep for yourself, you’ve got to get yourself on a tight schedule. Staying on a sleep schedule helps your body form a sleep rhythm or circadian rhythm. This means choosing a time to go to sleep and sticking with it every night. So, if you want to be in bed by 9 PM, then stick to it and go to bed on time.
Conversely, going to sleep Monday at 9 PM, Tuesday at 11 PM and Wednesday at 8 PM will not allow your body to form a natural circadian rhythm. Instead, you’ll find it challenging to get tired at the time you’d prefer to go to sleep. It’s recommended to get anywhere from 7-9 hours of sleep for the average adult, so set a schedule in which you will achieve the necessary amount of sleep you need and stick to it.
Here’s an example of a solid sleep schedule: 9 p.m./10 p.m. to 5 a.m./ 6 a.m. Following a schedule like this will give you an adequate 8 hours of sleep without keeping you up too late or getting up too early.
Create a Comfortable Space
We mean it when we say to create a comfortable space, and that includes silence, too. When going to sleep, it’s easy to bring distractions into bed with you. These distractions typically take the form of cellphones, smartphones and tablets. It is even worse if you’ve got a TV in your room. In truth, these devices emit a very specific type of light that works to alert you, but it has the added downside of keeping you awake when all you want to do is go to sleep. So, take our advice and give yourself at least 30 minutes to simply sit in the dark before you get to sleep. Listen to some soft, instrumental music if that helps you relax. Just remember to turn off the music, so your room is very quiet once you feel tired. We promise that your eyes and brain will thank you as you drift off to dreamland.
Find a Good Position
Like a good groove in your favorite chair, having a good sleeping position is a necessity for those trying to sleep with COPD. To achieve the best breathing when attempting to get to sleep, try sleeping on your side. It may help relieve tension in the throat and can help open the airways. This ultimately has the effect of reducing trouble breathing at night. Even in resting the head, it’s important to know the difference between using too many pillows to support your neck (which can cause airway interference) and none at all (which can also cause airway interference).
A few other tactics to consider include:
- Sleeping on your stomach and not your back
- Limiting your naps
- Put a pillow between your legs
- Clear your throat of mucus before bed
- Avoid any stimulants before bed (coffee, soda, dessert or cigarettes)
- Don’t workout before bed
- Avoid big meals before bed
- Don’t drink alcohol before bed
- Don’t drink too much liquid before bed or risk going to the bathroom in the night
- Dim the lights in your room two to three hours before bed
- Silence everything you can (even the fan if you won’t get overheated)
- Keep your pets off your bed
- Try to relax in those two to three hours before bed; consider meditation or reading
- Invest in some bedroom plants
- Medications like anticholinergics, corticosteroids and inhalers have shown to improve oxygen intake and sleep quality in COPD
So, be sure to take your medication exactly as prescribed by your physician.
Looking Towards What’s Next
COPD and sleeping problems can be incredibly difficult. As sleep is one of the most important aspects of life, to struggle to get it every night along with the general symptoms of COPD, fatigue can turn to stress, anxiety and depression very quickly.
However, change may be possible through treatment.
With a few behavioral changes, it’s possible to greatly affect the pronouncement of symptoms within those with COPD, emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis. And that includes the quality of your sleep. However, when lifestyle changes fail to improve your quality of life in the way that you may expect, it may be time to consider cellular therapy. Rather than addressing the symptoms of lung disease, cellular therapy may directly affect disease progression and may improve quality of life.