How to Sleep Better: 5 Tips for Better Sleep When You Have Respiratory Problems
About one third of our lives are spent in sleep, yet it is a subject rarely addressed by physicians during an annual visit. Moreover, those with respiratory problems often have even more problems with sleep than the general public.
Several years ago, we did a sleep study on every patient who went through our six-week pulmonary rehabilitation program both before and after their participation in the program. Interestingly enough, we found a significant improvement in the quality of sleep after rehabilitation. Why?
In order to understand why sleep improved, it helps to understand the connection between respiratory problems and sleep. The National Sleep Foundation explains that individuals suffering from respiratory problems, particularly Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), often have difficulty sleeping for the following reasons:
- The medications used to treat respiratory problems can cause patients to have trouble sleeping, especially if taken incorrectly.
- The symptoms of COPD (coughing, chest pain) and other non-respiratory problems, (frequent nighttime urination) can keep patients up at night.
- Changes in breathing patterns that occur during normal sleep for healthy people can cause more severe consequences in people with COPD since those changes reduce blood oxygen levels.
Sleep Study Results
After rehabilitation, sleep improved for the individuals in our sleep study due to the following:
- Each person learned about their medications and consequently took them as prescribed, which set up their body to fall into a good sleep rhythm.
- Patients with bronchitis decreased the amount of sputum produced, which meant they were less likely to wake up coughing up sputum. If necessary, they were taught postural drainage.
- Everyone was walking an hour a day by the end of the six weeks of rehabilitation. This increase in activity in their daily lives was likely a major factor in sleep improvement. People who are active during the day sleep better at night!
- We discovered that patients whose oxygen saturations decreased during the night needed to be put on oxygen, even if they didn’t decrease during the day with exercise. To our great surprise, we also found that some patients on oxygen during the day did not need it at night.
Many other less dramatic problems were also addressed, such as those discussed in this blog with tips for better sleep from the Mayo Clinic. Ultimately, everyone finished our sleep study – and the rehab program – feeling much better and happier about their lives. Certainly, their ability to sleep better was a significant factor in their improved well-being.
We all need our sleep. But, for COPD patients, getting adequate sleep is even more essential for maintaining good health. The benefits of sleep are numerous and, although some factors affecting your sleep are out of your control, there are some things you can control. If you’re suffering from respiratory problems and find that you’re struggling to sleep at night, the following tips can help you get the rest you need.
5 Tips for Better Sleep
- Make sure you’re taking your medications as prescribed.
- Include physical activity as part of your daily routine.
- Establish a sleep schedule, including waking up and going to bed at the same time, consistently, each day – even on the weekends.
- Establish a restful, relaxing sleep environment that is comfortable and associated strictly with sleep.
- Be careful about what you eat and drink, particularly later in the day. Caffeine and alcohol can take a while to wear off and will inhibit your ability to sleep well.
To find the name of a pulmonary rehabilitation program near you go to LiveBetter.org.
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