woman with metaphorical electrical cord unplugged

More Than a Feeling: Tired vs COPD Tired

Sometimes the word “tired” just doesn’t cut it when it comes to COPD. Although COPD symptoms can vary from person to person, many people affected by COPD have one symptom in common – fatigue. In fact, our 2016 COPD In America survey revealed that fatigue was the second most common symptom experienced by respondents! When dealing with COPD, fatigue is more than “feeling tired”- it’s a powerful symptom that can have a large impact on your daily life.

Recently, we asked you in the COPD community to explain the difference between ‘tired’ and ‘COPD tired’, and they came back with many common experiences of COPD fatigue:

Can’t stay awake tired” · “Exhaustion” · “Nothing is left” · “Bone tired

For many of you, “COPD tired” feels like complete and indisputable exhaustion. While maintaining an exercise routine and staying active can actually counter your COPD fatigue, for many of our community members, even “simple tasks” (like household cleaning) can seem overwhelming. The COPD “cycle of tiredness” (avoiding physical activity due to fatigue, and therefore becoming more fatigued), can lead to a snowball effect of low energy and lethargy.

While every person’s management plan is different, many of our community members have shared success with pulmonary rehab, physical activity, and/or maintaining a daily schedule to combat the cycle of fatigue.

You cannot talk yourself out of it” · “It takes a couple days to build energy back up” · “There’s nothing I can do to change it

For people who do not have COPD, ‘feeling tired’ can usually be solved with a quick nap, or even just a large cup of coffee. In describing their symptoms, many of you shared that there isn’t usually a “quick fix” for being COPD tired. Unlike typical fatigue, COPD fatigue can feel out of your control, leaving many community members feeling frustrated or “lazy” when they can’t do the things that they need to get done.

For many of you, coming to terms with your COPD diagnosis has taken time, including accepting your changing energy levels. Although chronic fatigue can be frustrating, many community members have had success in pacing themselves, and learning to rest when necessary. To read these experiences from fellow COPD patients, visit our Community Stories pages (and submit your own!)

It seems all I can get are cat naps” ·  “I get tired during the day but, I don’t fall asleep till 4 or 5” · “I can’t remember when I slept a whole 8 hours

In describing their COPD, many patients say that despite how tired they area, they still have problems sleeping. For COPD patients, trouble sleeping can be caused by coughing, breathlessness, certain types of COPD medications, feeling anxious or depressed, and not absorbing enough oxygen. No matter the cause, if you have trouble sleeping, you may feel more fatigued during the day.

Many of you have shared your experiences of sleeping difficulties, citing a variety of causes, and many others have shared your successful strategies for better sleep. For some, daytime naps help alleviate some of the fatigue, while others sleep better at night if they do not nap and rest frequently instead. To manage your fatigue, try keeping a journal to determine what sleep strategies work best for you, and then apply those strategies to (hopefully!) get a better night’s rest.

“I am so tired of COPD” · “It’s so depressing” · “It drains a person to deal with this disease”

When managing a chronic illness, protecting your mental health can be just as important as confronting your physical symptoms. Although not every person affected by COPD experiences depression, for many of our community members, COPD fatigue is tied to feelings of frustration, sadness, and depression. While COPD fatigue can feel overwhelming, it is also possible to have a fulfilling, satisfying life with COPD! Confront and discuss your COPD difficulties, and don’t be afraid to rely on your friends and family for support.

“Water, water, water” · “Listen to your body” · “Follow a daily schedule”

Like many people struggling with COPD fatigue, overtime, you learn what works best for you! To combat their fluctuating energy levels, our community members have tried and suggested a variety of self-care techniques, including oxygen therapy, natural remedies, hydration, and many more.

COPD fatigue can feel overwhelming, but you are not alone! Connect with other community members and test-out one of these methods, and as always, we’re always here!

Comments

View Comments (52)
  • ladypersephone
    2 months ago

    I think thats the thing that bothers me the most, my energy level has never been lower. I have always been a busy person, and liked to go out and do things. Now it seems like everything is an effort. I also feel pretty weak, I didn’t know that it affects the muscles. I am always battling fatigue. I am always trying to find ways, to get back to being a little more active. I want to start walking, but I am afraid of having to suddenly having to use the bathroom, I think I have to battle these fears, and try anyway, since I don’t always want to feel held down by these fears.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi ladypersephone and thanks for your post. Fatigue can be a big factor when it comes to living with and managing COPD. You’re idea about battling through the fears you have are real but wanting to conquer them is the right approach. Others in the community have also spoken about issues with the bathroom and they too, can be addressed. I thought this article might provide some additional insight for that particular concern: https://copd.net/living/an-embarrassing-situation/. We appreciate your input here. Wishing you the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • mistygirlsmomma
    3 months ago

    I experience feelings of being tired after eating a meal when my body is using oxygen to help digest food that I have consumed. i find I need a quiet time (not a nap or sleeping), but, sitting and perhaps reading or listening to easy-listening music or enjoying sitting out-of-doors on a pretty day taking in sunlight and nature.
    I try to avoid eating filling meals beyond 3:00 PM and I try to maintain a regular intake of water to, also, aid with the digestion of food.

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi mistygirlsmomma,
    it seems that are doing everything you can to reduce the uncomfortable symptoms of COPD. Giving yourself permission to do what you know will work is the best way. Rest when you need to and stay active when you can.
    Stay on this road if that is what works for you. Your post has the potential to help others.
    We thank you.
    Barbara Moore (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 days ago

    Hi buckybuck and thanks for your most recent post (from about 3 hours ago), below. You’ve given a great example of how you ‘being tense’ seems to cause more frequent flare-ups for yourself. You’ve asked the perfect question, too – how do we ‘learn to relax’ after a lifetime of being ‘on the go’. I’ll be very much interested to see what others have to say. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • buckybuck
    3 days ago

    I think for some of us, this is very difficult! We are so used to being on the go and responsible for others that it’s hard to just do what is needed for oneself for a change. But it’s time to let go of the constant pushing and l;earn to relax. I find that when I am tense, my flare -ups are more frequent. It’s easier said than done though. Any suggestions?

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi again, mistygirlsmomma and thanks for commenting on this very popular publication from our COPD.net website. We appreciate you sharing your own experiences with fatigue and ‘feeling tired’ with COPD. As mentioned in an earlier post to you, you seem to understand well how best to manage your condition. We appreciate your participation in our online community and value you being a member! All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Skip
    3 months ago

    I’m new to all this copd stuff being recently diagnosed, and I must admit, I’ve found the “why’s” I fell the way I do and yes, feeling tired is one of them. Mine is not really bad and manageable for myself. I try to keep busy and stay focused. Kinda crazy knowing now what the symptoms are, looking back I’ve had this crap for some time now. Probably as far back as 3 years. It wasn’t till last month I went to the doctor for gasping for air at times doing simple things. Maybe I’ve grown use to feeling sleepy during the day and just keep busy then it passes. My problem was sleeping at night and more so thru the night. Been on spiriva for little over a week and I’m now sleepy good. Maybe it’s the vitamins I take that takes the edge off the tiredness you guys talk about. Not really a big issue here.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi again, Skip. We really appreciate your posting and keeping us apprised of your condition and how you are managing. Being new to a COPD diagnosis can require adjustments to your usual lifestyle – this can be challenging. Please know we are all here to provide support in any way that we can. You are always welcome here! All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi Skip,
    Being new to this disease, you will find lots and lots of valuable information on this COPD.Net site.
    Have a look around. This is the first site I read to help myself when first diagnosed too.
    Keep reading to help yourself.
    Barbara Moore
    (Site moderator)

  • Kini
    4 months ago

    I could not figure out why I was so tired all the time and after reading comments it makes sense. Since I have quit smoking I had been coughing so much I was not getting any sleep. Then when I coughed urine leaked even after just urinaurinating
    Finally. I had to get Depends. My husband asked me why I wouldn’t go anywhere and I finally told him it’s embarrassing. I am 67 and I feel like I’m just too young for all of this. He gets upset with me so I am trying to make an effort to go with him more. It’s beena hot and humid summer for me with COPD and allergies to boot

  • ladypersephone
    2 months ago

    Thank you Kini, for bringing that up, I’m 63, and I have the same problem, but haven’t seen that one discussed much! I too finally quit smoking and boy was it hard, but yes within a week or two, I was feeling so much better. Funny thing is I have not coughed much at all. But if I was rushing around and I got a little winded, I would have a leak, even if I just went. Now if I go somewhere, I wear a pad, just in case, it doesn’t usually end up being a lot, but it has happened. I’m hoping it won’t get any worse.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi again, ladypersephone, and thanks for chiming in here in response to Kini’s comment too. You’ll note (in my response to your first post here), this very real concern is underscored with a linked article. I’ll post it here as well, for your convenience: https://copd.net/living/an-embarrassing-situation/. Warm regards, Leon (site moderator)

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi Kini,
    Thank you for sharing. This is a real symptom of COPD and something that you cannot help.
    It is sometimes hard for your caregivers to understand your limitations, but using the information posted by Allyson.Ellis will perhaps alleviate some of your embarrassment.
    In spite of what others are thinking it is time to put yourself first and give yourself permission to do what it takes to care for you.
    Barbara Moore (site moderator)

  • Allyson.Ellis moderator
    4 months ago

    Kini, thank you for sharing so honestly about how you are feeling. Struggling with the need to urinate and/or incontinence is actually a very common though infrequently discussed symptom of COPD. I thought this article might be of interest to you: https://copd.net/living/an-embarrassing-situation/ I’m glad you are trying to get out and do things more often with your husband. I hear how hard it feels going through all these symptoms at 67, but please know many in the community are living long, full lives with COPD -just at a slower pace! Do what you can to keep enjoying your life! I hope the cooler temperatures of fall arrive to where you are soon, so you can breathe a bit easier without the oppressive humidity! Please reach out anytime. We are always here to listen. Wishing you an enjoyable weekend! ~Allyson (COPD.net team)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi Kini and thanks for your post. I want to extend ‘congratulations’ to you for being smoke-free! It is truly one of the most important accomplishments you can achieve to manage your condition. It’s good to hear you’re making all the efforts to overcome these concerns of yours. I’m sure your husband will appreciate the effort and you’ll continue to enjoy doing activities together. Wishing you the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • nottus
    5 months ago

    Well I getup tired. I take 1/2 of a 0.5 mg Xanax
    and (2) 25mg each of Seroquel before going to bed. Yes, It give me some ” sleep”. but I
    think it isn’t “good” sleep. Do to being tired .

    I can set down in a chair and go to sleep, after just getting up. Strange but true.

    I am sure this isn’t anything different than some of you folks.

    Talk to you later.

    B,

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi nottus – as you guessed, others in our community have similar experiences to the one you described in your post (above), so you are not alone! We’re glad to have you as part of our online community. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • bunnymusic60
    5 months ago

    I developed a-fib and had to stop pulmonary rehab. Now I am finding out more about this a-fib and hope to get back to pulmo rehab very soon. I am becoming so tired and I’m almost positive it’s because I haven’t been exercising. Seeing the cardio today and hope she’ll let me get back to rehab.

  • JRIV211
    4 months ago

    Ive had 3 ablations 2 cardioversions and iv drug twice to put my heart back in sinus rythum. Then I found out I had COPD emphysema 4 yrs later. My hearts doing amazing.. Walks are good. Im on o2 24/7 but I dont let that hold me back from playing with my grandchildren.. Not sure when the post was made. But, I wish you the best.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi JRIV211 and thanks for chiming in here. This post “More than a Feeling…” is from March 31, 2017, but please don’t be concerned. We (always) welcome comments moving forward. We really appreciate you participating in this forum/thread. It sounds like you’ve got everything under control and are managing quite well. Keep up that spirit and keep up the good work! I’m sure your grandchildren appreciate all you are doing with them. Warmly, Leon (site moderator)

  • tdhcsc
    4 months ago

    After being diagonsed with AFIB about 6 months ago I decided to have an ablasion. Had it 2 months ago. Not finished healing yet so I don’t know what the outcome will be but the Cartiologist told me my ‘out of breath’ problems weren’t becuse of my heart so I saw a pulmonary Dr. who said I have some COPD. Now I’m on inhalers but I’m still really tired. Thought it was ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’ but then It could be the COPD, or, it could even be my heart. Hell, I don’t know.

    One thing that’s helped my Fatigue,,,, vaporizing cannibis. It’s probably one of the worse things I can do but then it’s better than feeling so tired I can’t even climb the stairs.

    Can’t/won’t recommend using it to anyone. I can only say it seems to help my fatigue caused by,,, ???????? hell I don’t know?, my heart, COPD, Chronic Fatigue, something else?

    as Art Linkletter said, “Growing old isn’t for sissys”.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi tdhcsc and thanks for sharing what works for you with your present condition. It certainly is not easy going through what you have already (a cardiac ablation and a new COPD diagnosis. We appreciate your candor with the online community. Wishing you the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Joenwbie
    5 months ago

    Hi, I am so new here I made my name Joe”newbie” how’s that for new? I saw a-fib and my eyes lit up. Here’s a huge help, sleep apnea will cause a-fib and a whole bunch of other problems. My Doctor got me out of a-fib and right on a Bipap with settings at 18/14 because I am stage 3 COPD (at least I’m not in final stage, so that’s great) ANYWAY; Get that a-fib reset, go on Oxygen 24/7 toss in a Bipap and feel new again (for a few hours a day anyway ).

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Ho Joenwbie and thanks for your post. We always appreciate when members are able to share with the communty what works well for their condition. Please keep in mind that COPD affects every patient differently and so what is good for one patient, may not be successful for another. We appreciate your input and welcome you to the community. We’re glad you’re here! All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    bunnymusic60 – I hope that appointment with the cardiologist goes well (or went well). You make a really good point about exercise and feeling tired. Hopefully you’ll be back to pulmonary rahab soon.

    Wishing you well.

    Regards,
    Lyn (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi bunnymusic60 and thanks for bringing us up-to-date on your present condition. We’ll look forward to hearing how the visit with your cardiologist went. Wishing you the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • nankyno1
    6 months ago

    I already feel better after reading this. I had forgotten that there are wonderful and helpful and inspiring people “out there”….if only we reach out. Thank you. I didn’t understand this tiredness…no matter how much I sleep, the energy isn’t there and, as a result, I haven’t taken care of myself.

  • Joenwbie
    5 months ago

    I have a question for you nankyno1. do you feel so tired that if you don’t go lay down you start to shut down? Like 4:45 every day I feel it come on, 5:00 I better be near a couch or bed, 5:15 I’m laying flat some place. That’s it lights out for 90 to 120 mins I am on Bipap with 2.5lt O2 while sleeping. But does yours get you THAT TIRED????? -Thanks in advance

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    6 months ago

    Hi nankyno1 and thanks for your post. We do have an entire online community that understands how you feel and knows what you’re going through. We’re glad you found this article to be so helpful for you. Remember, you are always welcome here! All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • writtenone
    7 months ago

    I have COPD and am exhausted all the time but have noticed when I do not voice or claim it but do something quietly productive like even a crossword puzzle on line or another step towards a goal it allows me to recover faster than if I just sat around saying “I am tired”

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    There’s actually some science behind that, writtenone. It’s been found that positive thinking and less negativity (even if it’s just hearing ourselves express it) can improve both mood and health. Thank you for sharing that!

    Regards,
    Lyn (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    8 months ago

    Cont’d.

    Mike – if you also wanted to know more about the medication, Albuterol, I thought you would find it informative to look over this article on that medication as well: https://copd.net/treatment/medication-overview/medications/sabas/.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • MikeB26
    8 months ago

    When both Combivent, every four hours, and albuterol, as needed every four hours, are prescribed, how should albuterol be used as a rescue medication? (And thanks for the great resource.)

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    8 months ago

    Great question, MikeB26 – let’s assume you’re taking your Combivent every 4 hours. Hopefully since the combivent also contains albuterol, you don’t need to take it as well every 4 hours. Therefore, the albuterol is there as a back-up (as needed) if you feel the Combivent isn’t doing it’s job. However, the fact that it’s a “rescue inhaler” is significant. If you suddenly feel the need to be taking it more frequently, that’s a sign you need to see your doctor right away.

    Regards,
    Lyn (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    8 months ago

    Hi MikeB26, in view of the excellent reply by Lyn and your concern about Combivent and the dosing schedule, I thought you might also find it helpful to look over this material specifically about the medication, Combivent: https://copd.net/treatment/medication-overview/medications/combivent-respimat/. Please continue, below.

  • Nrsdixie
    8 months ago

    How long do benefits from pulmonary rehab last?

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    8 months ago

    Hi Nrsdixie – that’s an excellent question. Since pulmonary rehabilitation is adjusted based on one’s capabilities, it should be effective for as long as you keep up the program. It’s important to continue to do what you’ve learned from the program on your own. You can look at it as a form of exercise – it should be good for you as long as you stay on board.
    In view of your expressed concerns, I thought you might find it helpful to look over this material on pulmonary rehabilitation: https://copd.net/living-with-copd/pulmonary-rehab/. It may provide you with a bit more insight into rehabilitation.
    Wishing you the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • jagguy
    9 months ago

    I’ve yet to have a COPD diahnosis formalised, but the consultant described the CT scan is indicating Emphysema, which does seem to fit my symptoms! He recommended Tiotropium Bromide by dilator to start, but that actually brought on ‘paradoxical bronchospasms’, so changed to Aclidinium Bromide, which seems to be better. However, the best combatant, which I discovered through the British Lung Foundation, is N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), which has been a real boon in combating mucous build up & clearance!

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi jagguy and thanks for your post. It’s good to hear you’ve found something that works so well for you. We appreciate you sharing your experiences here in our online community. I thought you might find it helpful to look over this article on that very topic. There is a section in it on mucolytics: https://copd.net/treatment/medication-overview/antibiotics-and-mucolytics/.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Cybergran
    9 months ago

    From my experience with sleeplessness is that I made things worse by worrying about not sleeping. I sleep in a reclining chair and I would lay there, wide awake and worrying that I could not get to sleep. It took me a while to realise I was making good the situation worse, so what I do now is sleep when I nod off, being daytime or nighttime. I have found that by stopping worrying and just sleep when it happens I am getting quite a good amount of sleep. Sometimes I am awake all night and eventually drop off at about 6am and sleep till about 11 or 12, other times I fall asleep at 5pm and wake up at 1am. It does make life a bit topsy-turvy but it has worked for me, and I don’t worry about it anymore. I know this won’t work for everyone but it has certainly help me, and stopped me getting very anxious about getting no sleep

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi Cybergran and thanks for letting us know what works so well for you when it comes to sleeping and keeping yourself rested. As you said, this type of schedule may not work for others, but it’s important that you recognize (as you do) that it works well for you! All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Goofy
    9 months ago

    What, exactly, causes mucus to gather in my throat? I usually can cough it up and spit it into a tissue. So far swallowing it doesn’t seem to hurt my digestion. But perhaps if I knew what causes it I could minimize it….
    Goofy

  • Allyson.Ellis moderator
    9 months ago

    Goofy, thank you for your question! Increased mucus production is a very common occurrence for those living with COPD. This article provides some good information on causes and tips for helping clear mucus: https://copd.net/clinical/mucus-with-copd/ Whenever possible, it is better for your body to spit out the mucus instead of swallowing it. I’m glad you reached out and are part of the community! ~Allyson (COPD.net team)

  • 9 months ago

    I can’t and don’t sleep. I feel trapped in an awful situation

  • Allyson.Ellis moderator
    9 months ago

    Earlene, COPD can feel so limiting. Adjusting to life at a slower pace can be so hard. Being unable to sleep is a challenge for many who live with COPD. I thought this article might be of interest: https://copd.net/living/getting-best-sleep-even-copd/ Are there things that continue to bring you joy? Living with CODP, while different, does not have to mean the end of being an active participant in life! I would encourage you to also read some of the writings from our contributor Derek Cummings (https://copd.net/community/experts/derek-cummings/) who has lived over 20 years with COPD and has found ways to remain engaged, even when COPD seemed like an insurmountable obstacle! Thank you for reaching out and being part of the community! We are glad you are here and are always here to listen when you need support. ~Allyson (COPD.net team)

  • GaylaSwintChristie
    1 year ago

    I have a Bi pap machine, which is just a bit different than a Cpap.. I have supplemental Oxygen hooked to it. I use it at night but have also found when I start to get “run down” or slurring speech/tongue tied.. if I go hook up and take a 15 min break.. I can usually go close to a “normal” day. Anyone who has COPD has their own version of “run down” & “normal”. This pressurized force of oxygen works better for me than just 5L on a cannula.. especially when I’m “tired”.

  • Joenwbie
    5 months ago

    I wish you were still around this board 1 year later, I use the Bipap with O2 also. This is my first week and took a 2 hour nap with it on, I woke up feeling SOOOOOOO GREAT and full of energy. The Bipap breaths for me, but hey I had a sleep study done and I suggest anyone that reads this DEMAND A SLEEP TEST STUDY.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi again, Joenwbie and thanks for this post. It’s good to hear you have found that BiPAP works so well for you. Isn’t it a good feeling when therapy is efficacious and has you feeling better!? Remember too, that not everyone is a candidate for a sleep study. This may be something for our community members to give some thought to and then discuss with their prescribing physician. Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • cassell
    2 years ago

    At the suggestion of my doctor I had a sleep test done, and found that I had sleep apnea. Most people don’t even know they have it unless a partner tells them they are snoring…yes, I now use a CPAP machine and sleep thru the night at least 8 to 10 hrs each nite. This definitely relieves alot of the heavy fatigue I feel during the day, and suggest that others may benefit from having this test done. It is well worth it!

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    You’re right, Cassell – so many people don’t even realize they have an issue unless they’re fortunate enough to have a partner let them know their sleeping patterns at night seem to be troublesome. The fact that you’ve had the sleep study and now use CPAP and that has resulted in some genuine positive results is good for all of us to hear. Thanks so much for sharing this with the community.
    Keep up the good work!
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Jenn Patel
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much for sharing your helpful input and experience, cassell!!! I thought people who read it might also be interested in this information on sleep tests: https://copd.net/living/other-tests-sleep-apnea/.

    Thanks again for being an active member in our community – we appreciate you, cassell!

    Warmly,
    Jenn (Community Manager, COPD.net)

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