Everything You Need to Know About Sleeping with COPD

Last updated: September 19th, 2023

Everything You Need to Know About Sleeping with COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, more commonly known as COPD, is an inflammatory disease that affects the airways in the lungs. It can cause severe issues, such as frequent coughing and difficulty breathing, and it can also make it difficult to get a good night of sleep.

COPD can also have an effect on the quality of sleep you get, which in turn can further exacerbate COPD symptoms, making good sleep especially important. In this article, let’s take a closer look at the relationship between COPD and sleep.

COPD and Sleep

COPD can cause sleep disruptions and studies indicate that up to 70 percent of those affected by COPD experience poor-quality sleep. Common sleep complaints reported by people with COPD include nighttime awakenings, frequent trips to the restroom, waking up too early, coughing at night, and snoring.

In addition, COPD symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, congestion, and pain, may also lead to poor sleep quality or disrupted sleep. There’s also evidence to show that certain COPD medications, particularly oral and inhaled steroids, may have an impact on sleep.

Fragmented sleep is very common among those with COPD. For those affected, sleep studies have revealed the following traits: increased nighttime arousals, lower sleep efficiency, reduced total sleep time, decreased slow wave sleep, decreased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and increased wakefulness after falling asleep.

Is COPD Worse at Night?

For some people, COPD itself may make it difficult to breathe or cause shortness of breath, but being in a prone position during sleep can make it worse. People with COPD often experience low blood oxygen levels, which can be further exacerbated while sleeping.

Furthermore, COPD-related breathing issues tend to occur more during REM sleep due to the slower rates of breathing during this stage. Additionally, it’s been seen that sleeping on one’s back can also play a role in affecting breathing difficulty.

Many people report that their COPD symptoms get worse in the morning, possibly due to increased inflammation and poor blood flow to the lungs at this time.

Sleep Strategies and COPD

Fortunately, there are a few sleep strategies that you can use to help manage your COPD symptoms and to help you sleep better. To start, you can adjust your sleep environment to make sure it’s comfortable, such as by ensuring your bed and pillows are comfortable and your room is dark and quiet. Additionally, you may want to pay extra attention to your CPAP or other breathing medication.

It’s also important to avoid caffeine, stimulants, or alcohol just before bed, and instead try something soothing and relaxing to help promote good sleep. Establishing a regular sleep schedule, exercising regularly, and practicing relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises, can also be beneficial.

Finally, consider giving an anti-snoring mouthpiece or mouthguard a try. Studies show that snoring mouthpieces can reduce snoring symptoms, and in turn, help people with COPD get a better night of sleep.


COPD affects the quality of sleep you get, making it tougher to get a good night of rest. But with the right approach and strategies, you can manage your COPD symptoms so that you can get the rest you need.

If you’re having trouble sleeping due to COPD, we strongly recommend speaking to your doctor or sleep specialist. They can offer personalized advice and make sure there aren’t any underlying medical issues causing your sleep issues.

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