Nocturnal Asthma: Sleep Matters

Nocturnal asthma, with symptoms like chest tightness, shortness of breath, cough, and wheezing at night, can make sleep impossible and leave you feeling tired and irritable during the day.

The chances of experiencing asthma symptoms are higher during sleep. Nocturnal wheezing, cough, and trouble breathing are common yet potentially dangerous. Many doctors often underestimate nocturnal asthma or nighttime asthma.

Sleep itself may even cause changes in bronchial function.

Increased Mucus or Sinusitis
During sleep, the airways tend to narrow, which may cause increased airflow resistance. This may trigger nighttime coughing, which can cause more tightening of the airways.

sleep matters

Internal Triggers
Asthma problems may occur during sleep, despite when the sleep period is taking place. People with asthma who work on the night shift may have breathing attacks during the day when they are sleeping.

Air Conditioning
Breathing colder air at night or sleeping in an air-conditioned bedroom may also cause loss of heat from the airways.

Another sleep-related condition that can worsen nighttime asthma is sleep apnea. This sleep disorder causes repeated pauses in breathing throughout the night – a serious problem in itself, but also one that can set off or worsen asthma symptoms. Obstructive sleep apnea is common in the whole population and could also contribute to asthma problems at night. Treatment for nocturnal asthma can include a variety of drugs, or CPAP for those with asthma and sleep apnea. Nocturnal asthma is common and should be treated to improve the quality of life for asthma sufferers.

  • Nighttime asthma attacks are experienced by many sufferers; more than 60% have nighttime symptoms once a week or more
  • Over a quarter of people with mild asthma wake every night short of breath
  • Compared to non-asthmatics, sufferers are 50% more likely to be tired during the day
  • Sleep quantity and quality are affected by asthma