White woman coughing in bed with asthma

Individuals with asthma crave a good night's rest during or after an attack, but symptoms can often exacerbate when restful sleep is needed most. As Sleep Awareness Month unfolds, Zenay Bakhsh, DO, critical care specialist, spotlights how asthma can significantly impact sleep quality and overall well-being.

"Asthma can have a big impact on overall sleep quality and restfulness for patients," Bakhsh said. "When asthma is not well controlled, nights can be restless, daunting, and fatiguing."

Read: Do you have adult-onset asthma? Tips to control your symptoms

Understanding the Impact of Asthma on Sleep Quality

Bakhsh delineates the repercussions of uncontrolled asthma on sleep, highlighting symptoms such as chest tightness, shortness of breath, persistent coughing, and wheezing. These nighttime awakenings, often termed "nocturnal asthma," disrupt the natural progression of sleep stages, leading to nonconsolidated and nonrestorative sleep. Consequently, individuals may experience increased daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and heightened fatigue.

“Sleep is a time when the brain gets to rest and the body will follow and for the brain to rest it needs to go through specific brainwaves, which we call Stages of Sleep; Stage I, Stage II, Stage III, and REM sleep,” Bakhsh said. “When the brain is unable to transition nicely through these stages because of constant awakenings, sleep is not consolidated.”

She emphasizes the importance of tailored asthma management to address nocturnal symptoms effectively. For those experiencing nighttime awakenings due to asthma, she recommends prompt consultation with a specialist to ensure proper control of the condition.

In addition to medical intervention, Bakhsh provided practical tips to optimize the sleep environment for individuals with asthma:

  1. Maintain Clean Bedding: Regularly washing bedding and minimizing dust accumulation can reduce exposure to triggers like dust mites, thereby alleviating asthma symptoms during sleep.
  2. Avoid Strong Scents: Fragrances from candles and other sources may exacerbate asthma symptoms. Opting for unscented products in the sleeping environment can promote a more restful night.
  3. Minimize Allergen Exposure: Closing windows and doors can prevent outdoor allergens like pollen from infiltrating the bedroom air, reducing the risk of asthma flare-ups.
  4. Regulate Temperature: Maintaining a comfortable temperature in the bedroom while avoiding extremes of cold or humidity can help alleviate breathing difficulties associated with asthma.
  5. Keep Rescue Inhaler Handy: Having quick access to a rescue inhaler ensures prompt management of asthma symptoms, facilitating a more peaceful sleep experience.

The Role of Sleep Hygiene in Asthma Management

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and practicing good sleep hygiene plays an especially significant role for individuals with asthma. Bakhsh said research indicates a correlation between poor asthma control and insomnia, emphasizing the need for adequate sleep duration and quality. Adhering to the 7 to 9 hours of recommended sleep and implementing sleep hygiene practices can complement asthma management efforts, promoting better overall health and well-being.

Read: Having trouble with your sleep? Ask your primary care doctor about at-home sleep studies

Struggling with asthma? The Advanced Lung Disease Center can evaluate and advise you on a care plan at their clinic. Make an appointment on MyChart today.