a woman sleeping with an oxygen mask and a wedge pillow

Sleeping and COPD

If you are anything like me, your sleep was disrupted for a few years before your diagnosis of COPD. In fact, if I had known better at the time, I would have known that this was one of the first symptoms of COPD.

Menopause and sleeping

When the process of menopause began at age 50, I soon recognized that my daily living patterns were changing. These changes were not for the better. I was coughing more, excreting more phlegm and I was HOT! Once these symptoms were triggered, they fed on each other. As I would find out much later, the hot that I felt was above normal and caused by high blood pressure. Soon I began to shed suit jackets for sleeveless tops in my fruitless attempt to have one cool moment.

Racing mind when trying to sleep

As nighttime approached, I was fatigued and in great need of sleep. Once in bed though, my mind would begin to race and it could take me more than an hour to get to sleep. It seems I am unable to calm the multiple thoughts traveling through my brain once my head hits the pillow and when I wake at 3 AM I am unable to return to sleep.

Visual meditation for resting

I read about a possible solution called visual meditation and used it in an attempt to calm myself. My vision was building a cottage and I would keep my mind busy/ my vision was managing contractors that worked on my cottage. It helped me fall asleep for a while. Soon I would be interrupted by coughing and I was again waking breathless at 3 AM. I began adding more pillows in an attempt to sleep in a more upright position but I would soon slip down to a flatter position and the coughing would start all over again. My days are spent fatigued and tired as I am no longer able to sleep a solid 8 hours. I no longer wake refreshed as I was doing in the past.

Catching up on my ZZZZ’s

I somehow thought that I would eventually catch up, but going to bed earlier caused bigger problems and brought about a night of no possible sleep. Going to bed later in the evening simply meant less sleep as I continued to wake at 3 AM. Using over the counter medication meant I would fall asleep OK but staying asleep would prove to be another matter. Having a glass of wine or a strong shot of rye before bed helped me to get to sleep but 3 AM was still my waking time.

Awake at three AM

This pattern evolved and I continued waking at 3 AM unable to return to slumber. Having to get up at 6 am for work was proving to be tough. That was just when I would be dozing off again into a peaceful slumber. I talked to my doctor about my inability to find a sound sleeping pattern. He acknowledged that some of the medication I needed for my COPD could be causing some of these sleeping issues.

He ordered daily exercise and diet changes eliminating sugar and carbohydrates. I began taking a sleep aid, supplemental oxygen and using a BiPap to eliminate excess carbon dioxide. Having purchased a wedge pillow, it keeps me comfortable and in an upright position. In spite of all of that, guess what time I am up every morning? 3 AM!

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 7th, 2024, Barbara Moore passed away. Barbara’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

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