Asthma and Sleep Problems: How are They Linked?

Asthma and Sleep Problems: How are They Linked?

If you have asthma, you know the classic symptoms of coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and shortness of breath. After a bad day of flare-ups, all you want is a good night’s sleep. 

If it seems like your worst asthma days lead to sleepless nights, you’re on to something. At Houston Family MD, Dr. Ranjit Grewal understands the connection between asthma and sleep problems and can help you address both issues at once.

How sleep quality affects asthma

When you don’t sleep well your body is more prone to inflammation, which is bad news for your lungs and your asthma. In fact, if you’re getting six hours of sleep or fewer, you’re 1.5 times more likely to experience asthma attacks than people who snooze for 7-9 hours a night. 

If you have asthma, disrupted sleep also puts you at a higher risk for overnight hospitalization related to asthma attacks and overall poor health. To the extent that it’s in your control, try to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. 

How asthma affects sleep quality

Despite your best efforts to get a good night’s sleep, it may be your asthma that’s keeping you up. In fact, about 75% of asthma sufferers wake up in the middle of night at least once a week because of asthma symptoms. This is called nocturnal asthma, and it can cause sleep problems and exacerbate your asthma in a cyclical pattern that’s hard to break.

Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly what causes nocturnal asthma, and though the reason isn’t fully understood, there is some evidence that the circadian rhythm of your lung function may contribute to it. Under normal circumstances, lungs reach the peak of their functionality during the daytime around 4pm, and hit the low point of their function at around 4am. But if you have nocturnal asthma, you may experience as much as a 15% differential in your lung function minimum and maximum. 

Hormones, which also tend to follow a circadian pattern of ebb and flow, may also play a role in your nocturnal asthma. If this fluctuation triggers inflammation in your airways, you’re more likely to experience nighttime asthma symptoms.

How to get adequate sleep and control your asthma

Now that you know about the relationship between sleep and asthma, let’s talk about how to get both under control.

First, it’s important to identify any health conditions that might exacerbate your asthma. Sleep apnea, acid reflux, and being overweight or obese are examples of conditions that need to be well-controlled if you have asthma. 

Next, make a list of the triggers that set off your asthma attacks, especially those that affect you at night. Check your bedroom for allergens, such as dander, mold, and pollen. Also, make sure the air isn’t too cold.

If you’re sensitive to certain foods or beverages, make sure you don’t consume them too close to bedtime. 

Talk to Dr. Grewal about any medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter drugs, as some can trigger asthma symptoms if used at night. 

Don’t use scented products, like room spray, wax burners, or candles in your bedroom. 

If you don’t have an asthma treatment plan in place, we invite you to come visit Dr. Grewal for a thorough exam and a personalized plan that’s tailored to your unique symptoms. Dr. Grewal may suggest allergy shots, prescription medications, or inhalers to control your asthma, and it’s a good idea to keep them on your nightstand in case you need relief in the middle of the night.

To find out more about how to ease your asthma symptoms and reduce your flare-ups, book an appointment using our online scheduling tool or call our friendly staff today.

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