Getting Your Best Sleep - Even With COPD
Last updated: November 2020
A restful night's sleep can be elusive when you have COPD. Do you have to sleep somewhat upright, find yourself getting your oxygen tubing tangled up in your covers or wake up through the night with coughing or shortness of breath? If so, getting enough quality sleep can be a real challenge. Depression, anxiety and medications can also disrupt the quality of your sleep experience.
Sleep is important for overall health
But when you have COPD, you need to rest, recharge and replenish your energy stores each day. You must recover from yesterday's exertions and prepare for tomorrow's activities all over again.
Here are just a few of the things that quality sleep help with:
- Limit your caffeine intake to early in the day. Still having caffeine in your system by bedtime may make it harder to fall asleep.
- Eat foods high in magnesium and/or Vitamin B complex. Magnesium and vitamin B can be natural sleep aids, so eating foods that contain them, especially at dinner time, can be helpful. Magnesium containing foods include: halibut, almonds, cashews, bananas and spinach. Vitamin B containing foods include: leafy greens, nuts and legumes.
- Pass up that nightcap alcohol drink. People often think that a glass of wine or a beer before bed will help them sleep better. In truth, though, alcohol often disrupts sleep schedules. You might feel sleepy after a glass of wine or beer, but chances, are, it'll wake you up during the night. If you must imbibe, do so right after dinner, well before bedtime.
- Use meditation or deep breathing exercises before bed. These can help your body relax and your mind to let go, so that you can fall into a restful sleep.
Tips for sleeping better with COPD
- Use supplemental oxygen therapy at night. You may sleep better at night with a steady flow of oxygen into your lungs. If you're not on oxygen already, but having trouble sleeping, think about talking with your doctor about it. If you are on oxygen, but haven't been using it at night, it's also a good idea to discuss this with your doctor. Always follow your health care providers' instructions on when and how to use oxygen therapy. And be sure to follow the flow per minute guidelines.
- Improve the amount of melatonin in your body. Melatonin is a hormone that guides your sleep-wake cycles. You do have it in your body, but often not enough of it. Tart cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin and might help when eaten as a bedtime snack. You can also take melatonin as an over the counter supplement. If none of these natural aids work well for you, talk with your doctor about some kind of safe sleep aid you might use. It's not a good idea to add any kind of sleep medication without your doctor's OK. This type of drug might not be the best thing for your already compromised airways.
- Set your bedroom up to enhance sleep. Your bed and room should be cozy, quiet, dark and cool. Avoid watching TV or doing anything stimulating, including exercise, right before sleep.
- Sleep elevated, if lying flat makes you feel short of breath. People who have COPD often find that sleeping on 2 or 3 pillows, rather than 1, makes it easier to breathe while lying down. You might even look into using a foam wedge under your head and shoulders. Other people use blocks under the bedposts at the head of the bed to elevate that whole part of the bed. Find what works for you.
Getting enough quality sleep is important for all of us. But, when you have a chronic illness such as COPD, it becomes an important factor in the overall quality of your life. So, be sure to take the steps outlined here to improve your sleep habits.
Where do you stand with your COPD?