How To Sleep Better: 5 Tips

How to Sleep Better

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:

  1. The medications used to treat respiratory problems can cause patients to have trouble sleeping, especially if taken incorrectly.
  2. The symptoms of COPD (coughing, chest pain) and other non-respiratory problems, (frequent nighttime urination) can keep patients up at night.
  3. 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

  1. Make sure you’re taking your medications as prescribed.
  2. Include physical activity as part of your daily routine.
  3. Establish a sleep schedule, including waking up and going to bed at the same time, consistently, each day – even on the weekends.
  4. Establish a restful, relaxing sleep environment that is comfortable and associated strictly with sleep.
  5. 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.

Did you enjoy this blog post? You may enjoy these posts as well:

Snoring Could Be A Sign of Sleep Apnea

Eat, Pray, Sleep – Stress Management for Your Health

  • Avatar
    Brendan Giblin
    Posted at 02:02h, 19 April Reply

    I am happy to have found this site on C.O. P .D

    • Avatar
      Harry Rossiter
      Posted at 21:28h, 15 June Reply

      Dear Brendan,

      We are happy you found us too. Our website and blogs are in the middle of a large overhaul so keep reading. Even better things are coming in a few months.

      Warm regards,

      Mary Burns, RN, BS

  • Avatar
    Alexander Jacques Sabucido
    Posted at 17:05h, 02 May Reply

    The points in this article would be a big help for you to have better good night sleep.

    • Avatar
      Harry Rossiter
      Posted at 21:28h, 15 June Reply

      Dear Alexander,

      We spend 1/3 of our lives in sleep yet this very important topic is seldom addressed. We hope to have future blogs on this as new information is found. Thanks for letting us know of your interest.

      Warm regards,

      Mary Burns, RN, BS

  • Avatar
    Enrique Pasion
    Posted at 02:40h, 15 May Reply

    This is a very useful and informative post on how to sleep better and much more restful without the hassles. Appreciate this post.

    • Avatar
      Harry Rossiter
      Posted at 21:27h, 15 June Reply

      Dear Enrique,

      I’m glad you found some helpful information in this post. That is our goal with all blogs. Thanks for taking the time to let us know. Your feedback is appreciated.

      Warm regards,

      Mary Burns, RN, BS

  • Avatar
    Posted at 07:49h, 26 July Reply


    • Avatar
      Posted at 11:21h, 02 August Reply

      Dear Jim,

      Checking your medications is a good idea, but please, also let your physician know you are having problems. There might be other things going on that cause your sleepless nights that only someone familiar with your history might consider. I’m sure it is not necessary to remind you not to change any medications you are on, tempting as it might be, without your physician’s knowledge and approval.

      Best wishes for soon again getting a good night’s sleep!

      Mary Burns, RN, BS

  • Avatar
    Posted at 05:33h, 09 September Reply

    WOW! thanks for sharing your insights about this discussion. It is great to be informed

    • Avatar
      Posted at 13:28h, 09 September Reply

      Dear Lee,

      Thanks for letting us know you found this helpful. There are a few other things you can try if you still have problems sleeping.
      – Avoid watching TV just before bedtime, or in bed, especially those murder mysteries.
      – Also avoid getting involved in reading books, or working on the ever present phone/tablet/computer.
      – Check the settings on your digital screens to change the type of light of the screen at night.
      – This is no time to try solving problems you are having at work!
      – Be aware of other problems like restless leg syndrome that can destroy sleep when you lie down.
      – Remember, bed is meant only for sex and sleep!

      Be sure to mention sleep problems to your physician so you can be evaluated for other causes like sleep apnea. Of course we have not covered all the things that can contribute to sleep problems or their solutions. If you think of other problems or solutions you wish to share with our readers we welcome your input.

      Best wishes for a peaceful night’s sleep!

      Mary Burns, RN, BS

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