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Getting Your Best Sleep - Even With COPD.

Getting Your Best Sleep – Even With COPD

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:

But the good news is that whether you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or getting enough sleep, there are things you can do that can help!

Tips for sleeping better

  1. Limit your caffeine intake to early in the day. Still having caffeine in your system by bedtime may make it harder to fall asleep.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

The importance of sleep for overall quality of life

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. McNicholas WT. Impact of sleep in COPD. Chest. 2000 Feb;117(2 Suppl):48S-53S.
  2. Authority Nutrition. How Magnesium Can Help You Sleep, Accessed at: www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-and-sleep

Comments

  • buckybuck
    1 month ago

    No trouble falling asleep here, but what do I do when I consistently wake up around 3 AM and can’t get back to sleep for at least an hour? Taking sleep meds then makes me too sleepy to get up on time.

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    1 month ago

    Hi buckybuck – That’s frustrating! I’m sure you’ve tried all the suggested remedies, but here are a few that I’ve heard have worked for others with a similiar problem (my husband being one of them).
    1. Try reading until you get sleepy. If you’re worried about turning on a light, we’ve found the investment of an electronic reader with dim backlighting is a great investment.
    2. Try some relaxation techniques while you lay there, taking slow, deep breaths as you do.
    3. It seems obvious, but don’t watch the clock. It just makes you tense.
    4. Listen to some relaxing music or natural sounds if you have a way to do that.
    5. If all else fails, get up and start your day. Sometimes a day or two of that and then going to bed at your regular time will force your body to sleep.
    Let us know if any of that works.
    Regards, Lyn (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    1 month ago

    Hi buckybuck and thanks for your post. Glad to hear you do NOT have any difficulty falling asleep. For some folks, as we get older, it sometimes seems as though biological clocks change. Falling asleep early and then waking up at an unorthodox time can be troublesome. In your case, you may want to go along with the waiting the hour, and then go back to sleep. When that occurs, at what time do you (then) wind up sleeping until? Leon (site moderator)

  • HorseLady
    2 months ago

    I can relate to this topic as accurate and helpful! In July 2019, I began to notice a change in my breathing, I had been COPD-mixed Stage 3 for than 7 yrs., with Supplemental O2 for 4 yrs. I had been hyperinflating for a few months needing occasional ER/Hospital stays. When on waking I was noticing severe headache and neck pain. I spent almost a month trying different pillows, elevations, and sleeping with/without my O2. I am still working out my sleeping positioning. And I have been moved into Stage 4 COPD, O2 constantly. This article really helped lots. Maybe worth a rerun?

    HorseLady

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi HorseLady, and thanks for joining in this conversation. Glad to hear you found this article to be so helpful for you. It’s always gratifying for us at COPD.net to know our published material is valued by our community members. It’s also good to hear you are still trying to effectively work out your sleeping positioning.
    You posting here will certainly call current attention to this article for the rest of the community. When the site leads see your comment, they may very well schedule it for a link on our COPD Facebook page.
    We do have a wealth of material posted concerning sleep and COPD. If you’re interested, this link will take you to those pertinent articles: https://copd.net/?s=sleep. Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    1 month ago

    Hi again, HorseLady, and thanks for your response (below). You never need to be concerned about when you are able to respond – we are always around the website and available to our community members, such as you!
    It’s understandable when ‘brain fog’ keeps one from doing just what you want to do. If there is anything we can do to assist you, please let me or any other moderator / team member know. We’re glad to have you as a member of our online community. Leon (site moderator)

  • HorseLady
    1 month ago

    Hi Leon,
    Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. Brain fog kept me from understanding how to view & respond to messages. I will be checking out your info! Thanks for all you do!

  • t86lls
    3 months ago

    I was diagnosed with COPD back in 2010.I have been doing very well so far.But now I have to deal with sleep apnea.Using a mask at night is a real pain, it is simply uncomfortable.I have looked into a different kind of mask, but the one that I f found is to expensive.So now I am stuck.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi t86lls and thanks for joining in the conversation here. Glad to hear you’ve been doing so well for so long. Over the years, there have been patients who, from time to time, have some difficulties adjusting to a CPAP/BiPAP machine at night. And, often times, as you’ve described, it is with the mask or nasal prongs fitment. I understand that now you have actually found a mask that works but you say it’s expensive. Do you have insurance that covers this? Can your physician or, the company that provides you with the machine offer any alternatives? Please let us hear back from you. Leon (site moderator)

  • jenny1123
    4 months ago

    I get my best sleep in my recliner, I’m also on oxygen all the time and also a CPAP machine at night. I do find myself waking up crying sometimes, things from my past that’s been hurtful coming up…then I realize it must somehow tie into my illness…does anyone else experience anything like this..?

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi jenny, and thanks for joining in the conversation here. We appreciate your input. You may find you’ll get more of a response if you post your concern in our “Q & A” section, which you can access here: https://copd.net/q-and-a/. You may also want to post it on our COPD Facebook page. You can find that link at the bottom of this page. Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • floydyboy1
    4 months ago

    Could someone help me please I’ve had moderate Copd for 2 years now! I keep getting constant chest infections! The only thing that gives me any relief is predistolone but as soon as I completed the dose infection back within a week or so. I’ve had ct scan all tests come back ok except Copd damage. Consultant won’t put me on regular dose of steroids as he says to many side affects.
    Has anybody else experienced this and have any advice please ?

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi floydyboy1 and thanks for this post. I see that you had posted something similarly about your condition and recurrent chest infections two years ago. It sounds like you’ve been battling this during this period of time.
    I’m sorry you are not being advised by your physician as to how to manage the recurrent chest infections. Would you consider seeking a second opinion from another, possibly better trained, specialist?
    Can you provide any additional information as to what type of physician has been treating you for the past two years with no appreciable change in your condition?
    Leon (site moderator)

  • rhonda61hobo
    4 months ago

    I wish going to bed was that easy. I do use over the counter melatonin 5mg. ,and it desloves in my mouth and is strawberry taste it’s the one I like to use and not habits forming,plus our bed goes up and down we bought it about 10 years ago best I ever did. We Love it,my hubby has hard time sleeping and likes to keep the tv on low so it doesn’t bother me,and my 2 dogs sleep with us also boy my life is really messy sometimes it’s very very hard living with 2 men in the same house. Coffee only once in awhile and the vitamins B,and magnesium in the morning with all my other vitamins that helps with copd, and my oxygen at nite, sometimes I will wake up and it would be off,so I just put it back on. I only sleep on my back maybe sometimes on my right side,but not very often And with the head of the bed up a little,because of the ribs crapping or hurting.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi again, rhonda, and thanks for joining in the conversation here. We appreciate what you’ve shared with the community.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • GAlexa
    8 months ago

    This article was especially interesting to me as I’m here with two dogs who I carry upstairs each night, but after my first real flare-up, I’ve been sleeping downstairs in a large cushion chair that is not at all helping me in my sleep!
    I plan on eating the foods mentioned in this article. Since I hardly drink, I doing well on that front. And number 4, use meditation I do often having spent five to six years in a monastery and taught how to meditate – contemplate. May I suggest learning Lectio Divino.

    I must confess that I’ve didn’t listen to my doctor – thought I could pray myself through this! I take Anoro and a puffer…but in the last two years when this disease made itself present, I don’t think I took the Anoro 200 times! The puffer I took about 400 times in the last two years. I really didn’t do badly at all. But on the 31st of March in the wee hours of the morning, I couldn’t breathe. My son came and got me to the hospital. He was 30 minutes away and I was told I should have called 911…I will definitely call 911 the next time which I’m sure will happen.

    Today I met with the doctor after two years and my lungs went from 49 percent down to 36 percent – a drastic change according to the doctor. So, it’s about time that I come here and learn from you. This is the first article that I dug in to learn from. Thank you for these tips.

  • Bayousara
    8 months ago

    I have long used a wedge pillow with another pillow on top of it. I am thinking using a recliner chair might be more beneficial for sleeping. Any thoughts about this?

  • Sossity
    6 months ago

    Hi Bayousara,

    I’ve been sleeping in a recliner for many years. Wouldn’t change a thing! Totally adjustable to how much you want to recline, etc. Invest in a good one. I have a huge Lazy Boy (sp) that adjusts in many different ways. Better than pillows and wedges because nothing moves around in a recliner. Good luck!

    Sossity

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    8 months ago

    Hi again, Bayousara and thanks for this post. Many patients with COPD find sleeping with their head elevated makes it easier to breathe at night. If it works for you (in your bed), you may want to stay with it. I’m a big believer (personally), that people should sleep in their beds when they are able. Having said that, I do know (professionally), some patients who insist they can only sleep (well) at night, when they are in a recliner. The choice, naturally, is a personal one. Warm regards, Leon (site moderator)

  • Jolenem614
    11 months ago

    ive just ordered a sleeping wedge from amazon, im going to see if it helps , as i have 3/4 pillows but they move ect , ill post my reviews

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi Jolenem614, I can’t wait to hear what you think of the wedge.
    I use one to sleep at night and I love it. Barbara (Site Moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi Jolene and thanks for your post. We’ll look forward to your analysis/review of this wedge pillow. Others in the community have raved about it – I hope it works well for you! Leon (site moderator)

  • Lonnie
    11 months ago

    Thanks for the info

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi Lonnie – it’s our pleasure. Glad you found this article by our own Kathi McNaughton to be helpful. Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • purpleosprey
    12 months ago

    Remember: tart cherries, cashews, banana…nightime snacks that help sleeping well. Also, melatonin

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi purpleosprey, that is an interesting theory I would like to look into more. Thank you for your comments. Barbara (Site Moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    12 months ago

    Hi purpleosprey and thanks for your post. Remember, too, that what works well for some folks, may not do much for others. It can really vary from person to person. Wishing you well,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • mickey22
    1 year ago

    I use a meter that measures my pulse and oxygen level. My oxygen level is usually 93. In the morning before taking my dose of Spiriva inhaler, I deep breath until my oxygen level reaches 98. By this time I can really get a full dose of Spiriva. Is this a good practice?

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi mickey22
    While we cannot give out medical advice, I would as for an evaluation from your doctor about the measures of oxygen. A lot depends on if you are using 02 or if the elevated high levels are natural.
    Barbara Moore (Site Moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi mickey22 and thanks for your post. While we cannot provide medical advice or diagnostics over the internet (for your own safety), your inquiry certainly warrants a reply. Clinically, there may not be an appreciable difference between a saturation of 93% and 98%. On a more practical level, do you feel any different between the two saturations? If you feel the same, you may want to continue what you’re doing since you seem to be comfortable doing it this way. To be sure, you should probably further this discussion with your prescribing physician. Please do check back and let us know how you’re doing. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • mickey22
    1 year ago

    Hi Leon,

    Usually I can do more after exercising with deep breaths. I feel better and experience a sense of better control of my lungs. I often cough during my dose of the inhaler. But after my exercise, I do not cough; and can even hold my breath beyond the recommended ten seconds without incident. I try to do this during the day at times when I think about it.

  • Olddognewtricks
    1 year ago

    How many have electric beds to have head raised for better? Relaxation? Pillows move out of position . How do others resolve raising the head of bed finding comfort and rest.

  • rhonda61hobo
    4 months ago

    I raise my bed at the head for about 3 to 4 seconds. And only use my pillow and it’s comfortable for me

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi rhonda – thanks so much for clarifying the 3-4 seconds actually was meant to read 2-3 inches. I thought that was what you meant, but wanted to be clear for the community that may read your post going forward.
    Wishing you well,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • rhonda61hobo
    4 months ago

    2 or 3 inches sorry about that

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi rhonda, and thanks for this post. You mentioned you only raise the bed for 3-4 seconds. Is that the length of time you keep it raised? Or did you possibly mean 3-4 inches?
    Would you be kind enough to clarify this for our readers?
    Thanks,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • ajschulte
    5 months ago

    Being a small person 5f1, I cannot seem to be able to use a wedge, I purchased one only to find out that every morning or at night I end up at the bottom of it, so I came up with a different plan, I stack up 3/4 pillows on top of each other, then I form Kind of stairs and it seems to work for me even though I do not need oxygen at night, in fact if and when I use the bathroom at night I go right back to sleep with no problem at all, during the day I wake up with no need of oxygen unless I am moving but as the day progresses I start needing it more until bed time. And my pillows stay in place. Thank God

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi again, ajschulte, and thanks for sharing with the community what works so well for you to facilitate sleeping at night. We’re glad you took the time to tell us the success you’re having with your pillow system. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • SgtCedar
    1 year ago

    I got a foam wedge that fits under the mattress. It works better than previous methods I tried.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi SgtCedar and thanks for sharing with the community what you find is working for you to help you to sleep better. For folks with obstructive disease, it always is better to sleep with your upper body and head elevated somewhat. So many members have told us this works for them as well. Warm regards, Leon (site moderator)

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi SgtCedar.
    I too sleep with a wedge and I have found it a cheaper and easier solution to keeping myself propped in an elevated position. I got mine at Amazon and couldn’t live without it.
    Barbara Moore (Site Moderator)

  • Snoozy
    1 year ago

    I have an adjustable bed and I love it. I raise the top to different heights depending on what feels good at the time. Sometimes I raise the foot of the bed if I have been having trouble with swollen ankles in the hot humid weather. I use a feather pillow because it’s less apt to travel around during the night.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi Snoozy, and thanks for letting us know what works so well for you as far as sleeping and your particular bed goes towards helping you to improve your sleep. We appreciate your input.
    All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • LyndaC0789
    2 years ago

    I’ve tried the above mentions to get some sleep but nothing has helped. I’m going to buy some generic melatonin over the counter tomorrow and try it. Does anyone have any other suggestions ? I’m end stage COPD with a host of other health issues so a prescription sleep aide is out of the question. I average 2-3 hrs sleep per night so I stay exhausted. Any suggestions are appreciated.
    Thanks in advance.
    Lynda

  • ajschulte
    5 months ago

    Lynda I take to Ashwaganda before going to bed and it seems to work miracles for me. It would be wiser though to ask your Dr if it is safe for you. It is an old Ayruveda herbal calming and relaxing one. It works wonders during an anxiety attack and for me it beats chemical formulas which might have side effects that no one needs plus they could be addictive not the herb I mentioned above. Hope that will help you

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi again, LyndaC0789 and we hear you! It’s not unusual for people with COPD to have some challenges when it comes to sleeping. I thought you might find it helpful to look over this article on that very subject: https://copd.net/answers/expert-answers-trouble-sleeping/. Have a good night. Leon (site moderator)

  • mickey22
    2 years ago

    I have COPD. I also have Sleep Apnea. I don’t use oxygen, but I think my sleep apnea machine is very useful in getting a good nights sleep. I usually get 9 hours a night, and wake up feeling great. I’m wondering when this will turn as progression continues. I keep looking for answers and just can’t seem to find any that fit my situation.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi again mickey22 and thanks for your post. You’re very fortunate to be getting 9 hours of sleep a night utilizing the ‘apnea machine’, as you call it. For clarification, this is a BiPAP or CPAP device, correct? It’s gratifying to hear this works so well for you and we appreciate you sharing it with the community. Sadly, it’s impossible to forecast the progression of COPD and sleep apnea, but rewarding to learn how well you’re doing today. I hope this brief answer provides you with some degree of solace to your concern. Warm regards, Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    Hi Mike D and thanks for your post/comment in reply to this article on ‘…the best sleep…’. We appreciate you sharing what works so well for you. By knowing yourself and your condition as thoroughly as you do, you’re able to manage quite well. You are a good example of how nocturnal oxygen can provide one with a good night’s sleep and help prepare for a productive day. We appreciate your input.
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Mike D
    7 months ago

    I use oxygen all night from 10.30 pm till 6.30 am, and wake refreshed. I do not need O2 during the day as I try not to over exert. This has been fairly steady since hospitalisation in 2015 with pneumonia/psepsis. I can get short of breath if I overdo things, but have learnt to pace myself

  • Alesandra Bevilacqua moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi mickey22! Thanks for sharing. I’m really glad that you have a routine that works for you and that you’re sleeping well. I wanted to share this article on sleep apnea as well: https://copd.net/living/obstructive-sleep-apnea-cpap/. If you’d like, you can ask our community a question here: https://copd.net/q-and-a/. Perhaps a few of our community members can offer you some insight or can relate to your situation. Wishing you well! All the best, Alesandra (COPD.net Team)

  • blackjack
    2 years ago

    Sometimes I’m so exhausted, though oxygen saturation is good enough, I’m actually too tired to sleep. Does this sound crazy?

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi Blackjack,
    I wonder if your mind is not shutting off if some meditation might be helpful.
    I hear you, it is really hard to get to sleep and more of a challenge to stay asleep.
    Sometimes 3 hours sounds like a miracle.

    Barbara Moore (Site moderator)

  • LyndaC0789
    2 years ago

    I’m with you as I feel exactly the same way.
    Lynda

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Not at all, blackjack. We have heard from many of our community members who are doing well but get tired throughout their day, or at the end of the day and every combination you can imagine. In fact, this article on that very topic may provide you with more insight: https://copd.net/living/tired-vs-copd-tired/. I hope you find it to be helpful.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

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