British Lung Foundation
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Breathing problems

I wake up struggling to breath. It feels like the airway is blocked and after trying to cough and swallow a few times it will open. Next I spend time trying to blow out the excess air (or CO2). Air will growl and make noises as it tries to escape.

I mentioned it to my MD and he just shook his head like maybe I complain too much. Then he shakes his head and says never heard of that before

. I have been getting a grim prognosis for my COPD ever since first diagnosed. I have an incentive spirometer and my air intake reads between 500ml and 1500 ml. anyone else going thru this or am I really alone?

9 Replies

Sorry Patty, I have never experienced this. Are you using your inhalers properly? Are you clearing mucus well? Is this an ongoing thing or is it new? If your MD is not very supportive maybe you should try another.


Hi patty, I suffer from asthma as well as COPD, and I can wake in the night struggling to breathe and coughing...but that is a symptom of asthma. What inhalers do you have?

Your doctor hasn't considered sleep apnoea either, where you breathing is interrupted ?

As toci suggested I would ask advice from another professional,

Take care and I hope you find some help soon.


I was suffering similar to this and it was because I was having a reaction to Spiriva. My Doctor discontinued my use and it cleared up.


Your MD should be aware of this is common with lung conditions?

I get this but not all the time it comes in phases. I have been told it sounds like sleep apnoea and the twice I have been tested I did not have enough symptoms to look at any action.

Try an extra pillow to get you higher while in bed. If you are a snorer it could be that? Being to short could also increase this (Polite way of saying overweight)

Might help to try huffing technique before bed and in the morning?

Your treatment might need to be changed.

Hope you get it sorted

Be Well

1 like

Hi Patty,

Please don't feel alone, we may not all have the same symptoms but many off us do have problems when trying to sleep at night. I wake up sometimes chocking and feeling my throat is blocked and it can be very worrying because you can't seem to get any air. I don't have sleep apnoea though do have some damage with my larynx which may have a contributing factor.

In the end I bought a riser bed so that I could adjust the angle of my mattress on the uncomfortable nights I sit nearly upright now, I have seen foam wedges that raise your head but allow your body to slope down to the mattress.

It took the Drs 5 years before they diagnosed my larynx problem as they think having allergies also effects my throat lining, so it was a come a go thing. I can only suggest keeping a diary of the nights you are effected it might show a pattern, with me it was chemicals and perfumes and strong smells. It still happens but at least the Dr and hospital are aware.

Hope you have a good Christmas.



@bayleyray thank you so much. Sounds like the same thing. I will try your recommendations.


COPD cause all sorts of strange stuff 'cos predominately it's 2 different conditions each with their own set of variables and often complicated by coexistence or elements of a 3rd. Bronchitis/Emphs/ Asthma.

As the treatment can broadly be the same they don't try to get to the specifics... so you never get a definitive diagnosis.

So 'keep it simple' is a good motto for addressing the problems.

Some symptoms bits sound like acid reflux - are you on a PPI - omeprazole or the like? If not, start there. It's unlikely to be the whole solution, tho'.

Also could be atelectasis - collapse of a section of the lung (usually not as serious as it sounds) making it difficult to breath fully or cough up muck. Try belching out tummy gas - see if that improves it. If so you'll need to start evaluating your meds (and food) to see which (or combination) may be causing the prob - for me it was caused by long term bronchodilator aggravated by statins.

Good luck, it ain't easy; if you think any element of this is the prob, come back and I'll try to help you get to the bottom of the issue.

1 like

It is usuall y when our air quality is bad. I have been told i have copd-emphysema and Bronchiectasis. It has been over a year since i would wake with blocked breathing. I am on all the usual meds. The bleeding episodes have been gone since this started. Before electric toothbrush would start the blood flow similar to a nose bleed. It was bad. Seems related with the timing but thats all. They said the bleeding was the brochiectasis. thanks Soulsaver.


I meant I am having these symptoms and they started over a year ago.


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