Asthma and COPD at Night

Posted by Darian Dozier on Jan 12, 2022 9:40:00 AM

Add a heading-Oct-17-2021-05-39-41-04-PM

Asthma and COPD are both obstructive diseases that make it difficult for lungs to completely get rid of all the air in them. Asthma is more common in younger patients and is reversible through treatment with drugs like albuterol and terbutaline. COPD is not reversible and is more evident in older patients, especially those with a history of smoking. It's important to know the difference between these two diseases and also the impact they can have on your sleep. Continue reading to find out more about sleep problems in these individuals. 

Causes of Asthma and COPD

Asthma and COPD are both caused by inflammation and narrowing of the airways in the lungs. This can make it difficult to get all of the air out, and these individuals may feel short of breath. They have no trouble getting air in, but it's very difficult to breathe out. 

Asthma patients can be triggered by allergens, whether, exercise, and anything else that can cause inflammation in the lungs. Asthma is more common in younger individuals, and the severity can range from seasonal to everyday. 

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, can include asthma, but is more commonly referring to more severe obstructive diseases like emphysema. Emphysema is the slow destruction of lung tissue which throws off the balance between lung and chest wall tissue. It is very common in individuals who have a history of smoking or exposure to certain chemicals. 


Common symptoms of both disease include wheezing, shortness of breath, cyanosis, barrel chest, coughing, and producing mucus. In asthma patients, these symptoms are normally brought on by exposure to one of the aforementioned triggers. However, COPD patients may have these symptoms triggered by a cold, pneumonia, or it just worsens over time. 

Nighttime exacerbations

Nighttime exacerbations in both diseases is a common feature. It's unsure why symptoms are worse during the night, but this is something to point out to your physician if you notice extreme shortness of breath or increased wheezing during the night. You make wake up throughout the middle of the, nighttime awakenings, which can interrupt your sleep and make you feel groggy. 

Also symptoms that may wake you up include coughing, breathlessness, nasal congestion and heartburn. COPD and asthma patients may be at. increased risk for obstructive sleep apnea which is a disease in which the muscles in the back of the throat relax and block air passage through the trachea.  Symptoms include snoring and cessation of breathing which can cause you to wake up and begin breathing again. 

Sleep problems can also impact asthma and COPD. Individuals with sleep problems and breathing problems can have worse repiratory disease if they wake up often at night. Sleep apnea (unrelated to COPD and asthma) can worsen symptoms during the day of respiratory disease. This is because sleep apnea can reduce the amount of oxygen in your body which can make your COPD or asthma worse, and increase your risk for an exacerbation. 


Treatment for asthma and COPD depends on the severity of the disease. Asthma is reversible upon delivery of a bronchodilator, whereas COPD is not. Both are treated with corticosteroids to help reduce the inflammation and narrowing of the airways.

You may also treat your sleep problems with various sleep medications or even machines. If you have OSA, then you can use a sleep machine called a CPAP which delivers enough pressure to keep the muscles in the back of your throat from collapsing while you sleep. 

If you're having trouble sleeping due to an obstructive disease, then it may be time to speak with a healthcare professional to find out the best treatment issue. To get started, click the orange box below to speak to a sleep expert. 

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