How does asthma affect your sleep? - Asthma UK communi...

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How does asthma affect your sleep?


Hi all,

You might have seen the sleep survey we are doing as we know so many of you are affected by waking up with your asthma symptoms and there's a gap in our advice and content.

To bring the page to life, it would be great if you could share what it's like for you when your asthma interferes with your sleep on the thread.

What does it feel like when your asthma wakes you up at night? Scary? Frustrated? Fed up?

How would you describe your night time symptoms?’



18 Replies

Morning Dita

This is an interesting one as through the lack of sleep, this is how I determined something was wrong. I was finding that my chest felt heavy and there was a constant pain on the left hand side. At first I thought it was my heart but then I knew it was to do with my breathing. The pain sometimes wakes me up and I then adjust how I am sleeping. I find sleeping on my back is much better. I tend to go to the bathroom once at night but I seemed to get up around 5 AM . Since taking Qvar this week, the pain has gone down and I am sleeping better. This also must be because I have joined the C25K program. I will keep you tabbed how I get on x

Disturbed sleep was one of my initial symptoms st diagnosis. Now many years on my sleep is ever good. Steroids don’t help. I think you just get used to the sleep you get and manage somehow

Like QuietChest3, disturbed nights was very much a feature of my asthma when I displayed symptoms as a child. It's very rare for asthma to disturb my sleep these days (fifty years later - though it does happen), but when it does I use ventolin and then go back to sleep. I don't tend to feel any fear, nor do I feel fed up or frustrated. I might briefly consider what might have caused the problem, but my main concern is to get back to sleep. The only exception is if a bad viral infection is involved, when a combination of the infection symptoms and asthma might keep me awake.

I wake up at night at least once a week and take my ventolin. Then go back to sleep. I don’t sleep very well, lots of nightmares.

For me, sometimes I wake up at night feeling like I can't breathe due to chest tightness, and then what I usually do is to try and evaluate whether it could be that it's coming from my spine and not asthma. If I am sure it's asthma related, I take my reliever inhaler and go back to sleep if I can. This is frustrating, but I am always happy when it does not turn into an acute asthma attack, since I had that happening to me before.

Some nights I also wake up coughing, then I try to open the window for a bit or drink a glass of water and take my medication if I absolutely have to and then go back to sleep.

Generally speaking I think it can make you feel very anxious to experience asthma symptoms at night because you might worry about waking up other people and it can also be frustrating when you cannot sleep properly.

in reply to _cherry_

_cherry_ I can relate to your nocturnal experiences! I have noticed a marked increase in feeling panic, stress, increased wheezing, coupled with heartburn and indigestion with the latter symptoms I try to be so careful with my diet especially what I consume before going to bed which is nothing solid - except for perhaps a herbal tea or some water.

Last night I used my Ventolin twice after 'waking up" in order to get back to sleep but it didn't work. ;0( it is now 8 a.m. Sunday morning. It is the first time that I have encountered such as severe sleep deprivation and I know that sounds dramatic, but I usually when I have my prednisolone as early in the morning , I avoid too much of a sleepless night. I have also taken Gaviscon to see whether that would relieve the feeling of indigestion and heaviness on my chest, but it's not really done the job.

I'm at my wits end I am so tired but the one good thing is I have a very supportive husband & daughter who can see my discomfort & distress and and are there for me 24/7.

I wish you well Cherry, let's get through this ASAP! :0) Hope you have a good Sunday.

in reply to _cherry_

I can relate to the experience of working out whether asthma is behind breathing difficulties at night or whether something else is to blame. In my case reflux is the most likely culprit, even though I am very careful about what, when and how much I eat, have the head end of my bed raised, and have medication (5ml of Gaviscon advance suspension taken just before going to bed) to help with this. I usually find that if reflux is blame, shifting position (usually switching to lying on my side) helps with this and my breathing eases. If such a switch in position does not help then my assumption will be that it is asthma and I will be reaching for the ventolin.

The need to clear Upper Respiratory Mucus at 4am resulting (it seems) from Eosinophilic Asthma and associated Rhinitis / Post Nasal Drip. Although Asthma Attack is not waking me, the Mucus resulting from Asthma is.

in reply to Matman

I'm like this since viral infection I've a cough feels like water in throat it's white mucas cough horrible though

I’m busy going through tests to see if I’m asthmatic but my wheezy chest has been waking me for weeks now! always have a blue puffer next to me! X

I have sleep apnoea and use a CPAP. Without my preventer, I can’t actually use CPAP due to O2 insufficiency. I am currently being assessed for supplementary O2 at night on a ventilator to try and overcome the problem. I sleep infinitely better now on CPAP with asthma control than I did without either, which had me in a hypoxic state and in a precipitous health condition.

Reserecting this post, I been finding I having weird dream b when I think I been asleep, Dreams of chocking or not being able to speak, This morning I tried to lay down to sleep on my side and had themost hhorrible nightmare of being squeezed by a man and trying to fight him off,

I had 6 puffs of my ventolin an by our before because of an irritating cough and itchy throat all I so tired of nor being able to lay down to sleep, Thought please?

Asthma disturbs my sleep around 4/5 nights a week. It can happen in a few different ways. Sometimes I wake myself naturally with a tight chest, sometimes my husband wakes me because he hears me wheezing and sometimes I have a nightmare about not being able to breathe and it takes me a while to wake properly to take my inhaler. X

I often don't wake up properly but will have asthma 'in my sleep' or will half wake up but not be with it enough to even remember I have asthma or what to do! (I have genuinely lain there for half an hour wondering what this sensation is and eventually worked it out and taken inhaler which helped). I have severe asthma with daily symptoms so you would think I'd recognise it right away!

When worse generally I may also wake up very tired but not have been aware of waking at the time. I believe this can happen with sleep apnoea ie microwaking episodes which add up so why not with asthma?

However despite what seems to be a massive lack of research on how sleep disturbance actually presents itself in asthma (all I see are self reports that sleep was disturbed), a lot of drs and nurses and others who actually work in asthma say oh it doesn't count unless you wake up fully and take your inhaler and if you weren't fully awake it wasn't asthma. I appreciate that not all night waking will be asthma, but don't think my experience should be dismissed because it doesn't fit into one perception of a poorly researched area!

Asthma UK, would love it if you could do more on this/present a range of experiences about sleep disturbance from asthma - is this the plan? I have filled in your survey and hope that helps, but it didn't really have space to discuss the above. Sorry if I sound grumpy and annoyed but I've really had it with being told it's not an issue because I don't fit a narrow mould, especially when the people saying it already know I'm not a typical asthmatic.

Hi Dita

Generally I am not troubled with my asthma, and can last months with no symptoms at all. However after a cold, my asthma shows itself again. My asthma symptoms only occur at night when, within 10-15 minutes of putting my head on the pillow, I start with a tickle at the back of my throat and then the dry uncontrollable coughing begins. Eventually things settle, I sleep for a short while and then I wake coughing again - and this is the pattern throughout the night. I might wake 4 or 5 times, sometimes more. I have been told by my GP that I should take my Ventolin when I wake, but Ventolin doesn't help during the night - besides, I am not always fully awake enough to take it. This pattern repeats itself night after night. Sometimes I try and sleep propped up, but this rarely works. How do I feel when I wake? Anxious, annoyed, on edge and worried that I am going to be shattered at work the following day. I also start to dread going to bed as I know I am going to have another bad nights sleep.

Often I end up having to see my GP for a short course of steroids. Generally by the time I see my GP I have had weeks of disturbed sleep and feel exhausted and pretty wretched. The steroids generally bring things back under control and I am fine again - usually for months.

in reply to adi63

Sorry about your experience why not try a piece of garlic in your mouth like toffee I have tried it several times and it gives me great relief and pleasant sleep all night

in reply to Juddman55

Thanks Juddman55. I haven't tried that but I will give it a go!! It's good to try things that you know have worked for someone else. Your advice is much appreciated!

Feels bad

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