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Sleep Strategies for COPD

from Johns Hopkins Health Alerts

Experts estimate that one-third to one-half of all people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) -- particularly those with moderate to severe COPD -- also have trouble sleeping. Sometimes the trouble may be due to COPD itself, but in other cases the difficulty may be an unrelated issue. In either case, if you are not able to get a good night's sleep, don't ignore it -- the long-term consequences can be serious.

If not getting a good night's sleep is a problem that you suffer from only occasionally, you may want to try self-care strategies. A few that may help include:

  • Going to bed sleepy. You'll sleep more soundly if you're truly tired at bedtime.
  • Exercising may help, but talk to your doctor first about what kind of exercise and what level is best for you.
  • Avoiding napping during the daytime, and forgoing caffeinated beverages late in the day.
  • Being consistent in your sleep schedule. Maintain a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day.
  • Avoiding sleeping pills. Sleeping pills -- either prescription or over-the-counter -- can be dangerous, since they slow breathing and reduce your response to stimuli while sleeping.

However, if these self-care strategies don't work or if you're getting too little sleep on a regular basis, it's important to talk to your doctor. He or she can identify more serious problems that could be causing your difficulty. Depending on the cause of your sleep troubles, options may include:

  • Adjusting your medications. Talk to your doctor to make sure your inhalers and steroids are of sufficient dosage to get you through the night. If a certain medication is responsible for a cough that's keeping you up, you may be able to switch to another medication that doesn't produce that side effect. And if restless legs syndrome or GERD keeps you awake, you may need medication to treat those conditions.
  • Adding nighttime oxygen therapy. If your doctor determines that low blood oxygen levels contribute to your sleep problem, supplemental oxygen may help.
  • Using CPAP if you have obstructive sleep apnea. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices deliver a steady stream of air through a nasal mask you wear overnight. New technology has made CPAP devices less intrusive than they used to be.

And CPAP devices can make a big difference in your sleep quality and your overall health. A 36-study review published by the Cochrane Collaboration -- an independent international group that conducts objective analyses of research -- found that people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea who used CPAP reported feeling less sleepy and more physically and mentally healthy during the day. What's more, some people had lower blood pressure readings as well.

This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information.


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