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7 Things You Need to Know about Sleep and COPD

10 Mar 2014
| Under COPD, Lifestyle | Posted by | 18 Comments
sleep and COPD

If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you know that difficulty breathing isn’t limited to daylight hours and often interferes with sleep. Effects of this loss of quality sleep can range from mild to chronic fatigue. People with COPD are more likely to develop insomnia, nightmares and daytime sleepiness than the general population. About 50% of COPD patients report significant trouble sleeping. If you are one of these people, it’s important to address your sleep disturbance immediately. Adverse effects from too little sleep include poor concentration, mood swings and irritability.

7 Things You Need to Know about Sleep and COPD

1. Medications.

Sleep disturbances in people with COPD are typically caused by the disease, but can also occur due to the side effects of medication. If you’re experiencing sleep disturbances, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the medications you’re taking. Drugs.com is a great resource to look up side effects of common medications. If you do find that a certain drug is interfering with your sleep, see if there is an alternative you can take. Remember, never stop a medication without the guidance of your physician.

2. Sleep Positions.

Since many people with COPD find it difficult to breathe lying down, they often choose to sleep propped up on pillows or in a chair. However, sleeping upright can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep for a full 6 to 8 hours. If breathing becomes uncomfortable while lying down, talk with your doctor about nighttime oxygen therapy.

3. Nighttime Oxygen Therapy.

Always speak with your doctor before trying a new therapy. Even though we all need oxygen to survive, when it is being used as a supplement it is still viewed as a drug. Oxygen therapy isn’t right for everyone, but has been known to help some people with COPD achieve a better night’s rest. Oxygen therapy is typically recommended for people with stage IV COPD. If you do not fall in this category, we suggest trying the other behavior modifications outlined in these tips. If all else fails, talk to your doctor about sleep aids and other forms of intervention.

4. Designate a Place to Sleep.

With few exceptions, your bed should be used as a place to sleep. If you’re prone to reading books or watching TV in bed, find another location for these activities. Once you get drowsy, go to bed. When you establish a routine of only sleeping in bed, your brain will automatically get sleepy when you crawl into bed after a long day. If you’ve been lying in bed for an extended period of time (over 30 minutes) and still can’t sleep; get up, go to the kitchen for something to drink, or read until you get drowsy before returning to bed. For best results, establish a routine. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, and rise at the same time every morning.

5. Exercise.

Performing 30 minutes of exercise each day can help you get a better night’s rest. Exercising with COPD can be especially tough, but by scheduling time and making an effort each day to get your heart rate up, can you achieve a better night’s sleep.

6. Don’t Go to Bed Hungry! 

If you’re still hungry after dinner and before bed, eat a small protein-packed meal. Try a handful of almonds or some cheese and crackers. Foods high in sugar and carbohydrates kick start your metabolism causing you to stay awake longer. Therefore, don’t eat sweet or starchy foods before bed. Avoid caffeinated drinks and carbonated beverages. Caffeine keeps you awake, and carbonated beverages can produce gas that pushes on the diaphragm, making breathing more difficult.

7. Ask About Sleep Apnea.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects 10 to 15 percent of individuals with COPD. This percentage is the same for the general population, however, sleep apnea in COPD sufferers’ causes an even greater burden. Because sleep apnea decreases oxygen levels and causes the airway to collapse, lung function is impacted even more significantly in patients with both disorders. Sleep apnea can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes. If you snore loudly, wake up gasping for air, have  morning headaches, or fall asleep at inappropriate times, you could have sleep apnea. A sleep test may be required to check for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is treatable, and once under control can add years to your life.

If you’re looking to improve your quality life we’re here to help.

If you or a loved one has COPD or other lung disease and want to learn more about treatment options, contact the Lung Institute online, or call (800) 729-3065.



  1. Lung Institute

    2 months ago


    Thank you for your comment and question. We would suggest talking with your primary doctor or specialist regarding your sleep. Unfortunately, we do not really diagnose conditions. We treat people who have been diagnosed with lung diseases.

    In the meantime, you can learn more about cellular treatment options and have your questions answered by one of our patient coordinators. Feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 for more information. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  2. Elise Walker

    2 months ago

    I have trouble going to sleep but when I finally do fall asleep I sleep for 6 to 7 an sometimes 10 hours ! Is this good or bad ? I don’t have any trouble when I get up ! I take my breathing treatment an meds an try to continue my day ?

  3. Lung Institute

    6 months ago


    Thank you for your comment and we are sorry to hear about your situation. Our best advice is that you will have to discuss your situation with your primary doctor or seek a specialist.

    Our dedicated medical team has a wealth of knowledge about cellular therapy, treatment options, candidacy, cost and more. We’re happy to answer your questions, so feel free to give us a call at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  4. Peggy

    6 months ago

    I have COPD I have insomnia I have restless leg syndrome my doctors don’t want to give me medication because of my COPD. I’m becoming a dangerous person. With no help for my doctor. I need to know what kind of medicine I can take to help me sleep

  5. Lung Institute

    7 months ago


    We are sorry to hear about your condition. In order to determine if someone is a candidate for treatment, we need to gather more of their private medical history in a secure setting. The best way to do that is by giving us a call and speaking one-on-one with someone on our medical team over our secure phone line. We’re happy to answer your questions about cells, treatment options, candidacy and cost. So, feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  6. John

    7 months ago

    Because of my copd i go days without sleeping. I am my wits end. I did everything my doctor told me to do and still can’t sleep. Are there any homemade remedies I’m not aware of I’m willing to try just about anything. Sincerely, sleepless in glen burnie

  7. Lung Institute

    7 months ago


    We are sorry to hear about your health problems and wish you the best.

    We’re happy to answer your questions about cellular therapy for chronic lung diseases. We have a dedicated medical team who have a wealth of knowledge about cellular therapy, treatment options, candidacy, cost and more. So, feel free to give us a call at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute


    8 months ago

    rI have copd and sleep apnea. I am on a non evasive ventalator and 2l of oxygen at night. i also have rls. i cannot sleep. my doctor gave me some lunesta for short term, but what can i do when it runs out? i am diabetic #2, so i don’t eat much in the way of carbs. i will have a banana or piece of cheese before bed. but i still can’t sleep. what can i do? i am getting desperate.

  9. Lung Institute

    9 months ago

    Hi Ernie,

    Thank you for your comment. It is important to know where you are to help you understand what to expect and how to get help. I would recommend calling your physician to get further clarification on what stage you are in and what to expect. They are there to help you, so don’t be shy about reaching out with questions.



  10. Ernie

    9 months ago

    I have EMPHYSEMA, but my pulmoary will not give me a Stage #. WhY?

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  15. Vera

    3 years ago

    I take OVC Melatonine and it helps me get drowsy. My Dr, recommended it.

  16. David Ebner

    3 years ago

    Typically, there are medications you can use. However, you will want to speak with your physician about how these medications may affect lung conditions. They should also be able to recommend a specific medication if it is appropriate. Thanks for your comment.

  17. ralph colantuoni

    3 years ago

    more about sleep is there a medication i could use

  18. Pingback: Lung Institute| Living with Lung Disease and Insomnia

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