How to Handle Nocturnal Symptoms
Dealing with asthma symptoms while you’re awake and alert may not be easy, but at least you’re able to respond quickly and precisely. Asthma that strikes in the night is a different story: when you’re awoken by wheezing, coughing and breathlessness, it can be frightening, your sleep quality will suffer, and your energy levels will fall. The outcome can be even worse if you don’t wake up at the first sign of distress.
Luckily, smart bedtime rituals and a few adjustments to your sleep hygiene can help you get the shut-eye you need to regenerate your cells and maintain your immune system.
Adjust Your Sleeping Position
Since your body already has to work harder at night to make up for the natural decline in your respiratory drive, work with gravity to make things easier for yourself. Many people find that propping up their head and shoulders a bit more than usual can make it easier to breathe, help drain congested sinuses, and defend against aggravating acid reflux.
Instead of a pile of pillows, consider using a specially-designed sleep wedge to keep your torso in a straight line, which will protect your neck and spine from undue pressure.
Address Other Discomforts
Heartburn and nasal congestion can provoke sleep apnea and interfere with your natural circadian rhythms by preventing the deep sleep you need. So, get to the root of the problem by treating persistent sinus problems and getting the right diagnosis and medication to control GERD.
Be careful about what you eat and drink in the evening, too, since that can play a role in digestive distress and metabolism. Remember that alcohol is notorious for interfering with sleep, whether or not you have a medical condition.
Keep up With Your Medications
Worsening nighttime asthma can mean you’re not using your asthma control medications as often or appropriately as you should. Daytime inhalers are important to fight inflammation and keep your body in a healthy state, but they may not be the sole solution.
Talk to your doctor about which medication to take before bedtime to best relieve inflammation and relax your bronchial muscles. A long-acting bronchodilator may be your best bet for sounder sleep.
Control Your Sleep Environment
Allergens and dry air are two top triggers for asthma, so take steps to improve the air and accessories in your bedroom. First, get rid of clutter — it collects dust and is difficult to keep clean — and opt for hypoallergenic pillows and duvets over feathers. Dust mites are difficult to eradicate, but once you remove their favorite haunts you’ll begin to notice a difference.
Nothing is more important than the air you breathe, so keep it as clean and fresh as possible. You may feel like the cool air from an open window will help you sleep, but outside allergens can have the opposite effect.
Instead, use a humidifier that can keep your room between 35 and 50 percent humidity. The more pressure you take off your lungs, the more likely you’ll overcome your nocturnal symptoms and get on track to healthier and happier days.