Living with a chronic lung disease like emphysema or pulmonary fibrosis is challenging enough. After spending all day struggling for air and begging for a moment without any shortness of breath or chest tightness, it’s normal to feel exhausted. When it is finally bedtime, you can’t help but be a little excited. It’s a chance to get off your feet and stop thinking for a little while.
As you climb into bed for the evening, you have no doubt that you will fall asleep within seconds. A few minutes pass and you are still awake—just lying there staring at the ceiling. What is happening? Why aren’t you asleep yet? You’re relatively comfortable—maybe a little out of breath but that’s nothing new. You try counting sheep; you try counting backwards from 100. It feels like you’ve tried everything. Yet here you are, two hours later, and all you’ve accomplished is staring at your alarm clock and vaguely paying attention to I Love Lucy playing in the background.
At first, you’re a little bitter. Why can’t you sleep? Why is your body and brain doing this to you? All day, you have fought for them to have enough oxygen to survive, and they repay you by keeping you awake all night. It’s just not fair. Then you reach a conclusion: Sleep is impossible; I’m wasting my time.
You get up and slide your slippers on. Should you clean the kitchen? Do laundry? It’s nearing one o’clock in the morning; would the dryer wake up your sleeping husband? Not wanting to risk it, you settle in front of your computer. As the sleepy monitor whirs awake, the soft light gives off a gentle glow. It’s almost peaceful as if it’s telling you that it really is bedtime. What to do at 1 AM online?
Difficulty breathing and living with a chronic lung disease is not just limited to the daytime, and it often gets in the way of falling asleep. In some cases, this just causes mild fatigue, but in severe situations, it can lead to debilitating exhaustion, nightmares and insomnia. Studies show that nearly 50 percent of individuals with a chronic lung disease like COPD report significant sleep disturbances. It is estimated that suffering from a chronic lung disease almost doubles your chances of experiencing the symptoms of insomnia.
Unfortunately, a great number of sufferers fail to report their symptoms to their physician. In one study, only 11.8 percent of the study subjects reported their insomnia symptoms. This leads to a significant decrease in patient quality of life and happiness.
We’re human; we need sleep. For far too long, we have pushed our sleep to the back burner—always prioritizing it behind everything else. This is evident in sufferers of a chronic lung disease as well. Poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation can lead to an increased risk of flare-ups and an overall dissatisfaction with life. Now is the time to take back the night and take control of your sleep.
If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep at night and staring at the alarm clock counting down how many hours of sleep you’ll get if you fall asleep right now, you may be suffering from insomnia. If you also have a chronic lung disease, chances are the two debilitating conditions are related, which means treating one could improve the other. Neither insomnia nor lung disease has a cure, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t treatable. Stem cell therapy for lung disease could not just help you breathe easier, but it could help you sleep easier too. For more information, contact the Lung Institute or call us at (800) 729-3065.