Asthma and sleep problems

People who suffer from daytime asthma may also have nighttime asthma. They can wake up from sleep with wheezing, coughing or shortness of breath. Those who suffer asthma at night are the ones with more severe disease.

Asthma occurs when the lining of the breathing airway becomes inflamed and then constricted (brochoconstriction). Mucus can also block the airflow. Asthmatics have hypersensitive airways, so exposure to triggers such as pollen, animal dandruff, cold and dry air can trigger an asthma attack.

Having asthma attacks at night can affect the sleep quality and daytime functioning. So these folks typically suffer from daytime fatigue, tiredness, and in children, poor performance at school. Because those with nighttime asthma are the ones with more severe disease, it is important to share this information with your doctor in order to include treatment plan for the night time symptoms. It is believed that nocturnal asthma is related to circadian rhythm (timing of day and night) rather than supine position.

Treatment and management

  • Keep track of any symptoms that occur at night and share it with your doctor. Nocturnal asthma is a dangerous sign meaning that the asthma is not fully controlled and therefore requires urgent attention.
  • Asthma medications reduce the inflammation of the breathing airway. Medications include Pulmicort, Flovent, Singulair, or steroids to name a few.
  • Inhaler bronchodilators before sleep is the treatment of choice.
  • Pay attention to the side effects of asthma medications. They can cause insomnia. You have to weigh out their need against the insomnia symptoms.
  • Make sure the bedding environment is clear and free as much as possible from dust mites.
  • Pay attention to triggers such as smoke/tobacco, gastroesophageal reflux and eating late at night, medication such as aspirin and high blood pressure medication such as beta blockers to name a few. They can worsen the nighttime symptoms
  • Get a good night sleep. Follow good sleep habits.