How to sleep with asthma: (3 Best positions)

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In this blog we will discuss how one can sleep with asthma as well as what are the best positions to sleep in if you have asthma. 

We will also briefly go over any possible links between asthma and sleeping position, what asthma is and show one can manage the symptoms of asthma. 

How to sleep with asthma: Best positions to sleep in.

People who have asthma tend to notice that their symptoms get worse in the evenings and in most cases, it tends to affect their sleep due to symptoms related to Nocturnal Asthma. 

Nocturnal asthma is what disrupts sleep and causes people to wake up at least once a week caused by various bed time factors such as-  drop in temperature, allergens on one’s bed etc- leads to asthma triggers.

There has been some research done in the area of sleeping positions and the possible alleviation of nocturnal asthma symptoms. 

Some of the best sleeping positions for people who have asthma include:

Lying on your back with shoulders and next alleviated 

This position requires you to sleep in supine position- that is one your back- and have your upper back, shoulders and neck supported by pillows. 

Experts believe that by supporting your upper body with two or three pillows can help open up your airways especially if your sinuses tend to drain more during the night. 

Sleeping with your upper body alleviate can help your breathing easier since it looses up the airways instead of constricting it.

Lie on your left side with a pillow between your legs.

If you find it hard to sleep on your back and prefer to sleep on your side, sleep on your left side. 

Sleeping on this side can work against gravity and reduce the risk of reflux due to the weight, shape and angle of the stomach and its connection with the oesophagus. 

Lying on your left side with your head elevated and adding a pillow between your legs to keep your spine stable, could be a good posture to sleep in. 

Lie on your back with your knees bent 

This position requires you to sleep in supine position- that is one your back- and have your upper back, shoulders and neck supported by pillows. 

Additionally,  you can add another pillow under your knees which can improve circulation and keep your body stable throughout the night.

There is no conclusive evidence that certain sleep positions can make asthma worse or better, however what most researchers on this matter highlights is that the effectiveness of certain positions in managing asthma depends on the individual. 

That means that even if sleeping on one’s back can be helpful for some people, it might not work for others. 

Some positions to avoid if you have asthma include:

Sleeping on your right side can make your symptoms worse as it believed to increase resistance in their airways and this can lead to airway construction when the parasympathetic system is agitated (Healthline).

Avoid sleeping on your stomach as it does not allow free airflow into your lungs while you’re asleep and it can make your symptoms worse.

Is there a link between asthma and sleep positions?

There is no conclusive evidence that certain sleep positions can make asthma worse or better, however what most researchers on this matter highlights is that the effectiveness of certain positions in managing asthma depends on the individual. 

That means that even if sleeping on one’s back can be helpful for some people, it might not work for others. 

According to Greiner , a writer at asthma.net, some studies claim that symptoms of nocturnal asthma reduce when one sleeps on their backs and this is further backed by research that claims that lying on your back and side can increase nocturnal asthma as it can lead to lung construction. 

A case study  of a  49 years old man for bronchial asthma for most of his life noted that this individual did not respond to normal treatments that he would normally respond to. 

The clinicians observed that when the individual was put in supine sleep position- on his back- for evaluation, the stumoms were relieved and he was later advised to sleep in supine position throughout every night to prevent asthma symptoms. 

According To this study, after the individual continued sleeping on his back for one month,  “…the patient had significant reduction in asthma symptoms”.

While this study attest to the positive impact of sleeping positions on asthma symptoms, the observations of this study cannot be generalised as it might not work for other people. 

What is asthma?

Asthma is a respiratory condition where an individual’s airways tend to narrow and swell, producing extra mucus when they come across certain triggers such as  cold, mould, polen, and other allergens.

This makes it very difficult for people to breath and is often marked by wheezing, boughing, and shortness of breath. 

The condition may not be life threatening for some whereas for others it can be very debilitating, leading to severe attacks  that interfere with their daily life and even cause death. 

Asthma is a lifelong disease that cannot be cured however its symptoms can be managed with treatment. 

Some of the symptoms of asthma according to MayoClinic includes:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Wheezing when exhaling, which is a common sign of asthma in children
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
  • Coughing or wheezing attacks that are worsened by a respiratory virus, such as a cold or the flu

These symptoms tend to differ from individual to individual and from circumstances to circumstances- for example, symptoms might worsen when they are in cold weather or when the season is damp and mouldy.

Signs that your asthma is probably worsening and needs medical attention include:

  • Asthma signs and symptoms that are more frequent and bothersome
  • Increasing difficulty breathing, as measured with a device used to check how well your lungs are working (peak flow metre)
  • The need to use a quick-relief inhaler more often

How to manage asthma?

Here are a few things you can do to manage asthma symptoms and live a relatively healthy life:

Create an asthma action plan with your doctor

This means that you create plans related to crisis intervention- like what can i do if i have an asthma attack or you can create a plan to prevent asthma attacks. 

It is crucial that you and your doctor write up a detailed plan related to your medication, managing an attack in order for you to thrive within your current living conditions. 

Since it is an ongoing condition, you and your doctor can plan for regular monitoring and check ups.

Get vaccinated

If you have asthma, get vaccinated for any respiratory diseases such as coronavirus infection, influenza and pneumonia.

Make sure that you are staying current with vaccinations in order to prevent flu and pneumonia from triggering flare-ups.

Avoid triggers

Another thing that you can choose to do is to actively identify triggers- this can include allergens, cold air, mould, pollution etc. 

If you notice that these causes flare ups, make sure that you make an effort to avoid these triggers and if avoidance is not possible, making small changes in your life can help. 

For example, if you feel like your cat’s hair is causing flare ups, you can create horse rules where the cat is not allowed to come to areas that you frequent. 

Cut down on allergens in your bedroom- use an air purifier if needed, wash your bedding regularly, and switch your bedding to less allergenic materials. 

Monitor your breathing

Monitoring your breathing can help you recognise the warning signs of an impending attack, such as slight coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath.

Identify and treat your attacks

If you are able to pick up signs of an impending attack, take medication as instructed, avoid triggers etc- doing these interventions can help you rescue the severity of these attacks.

Follow doctor’s instructions

Take your medication as prescribed and do not miss doses or change medications without first talking to your doctor.

Even if your asthma seems to be improving, do not discontinue use without talking to your doctor.

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed how one can sleep with asthma as well as what are the best positions to sleep in if you have asthma. 

We also briefly went over any possible links between asthma and sleeping position, what asthma is and show one can manage the symptoms of asthma. 

FAQ related to How to sleep with asthma

How can I relieve asthma at night?

A few things you can do to sleep well at night even with asthma include:

  • Take an inhaled steroid every day if you have nighttime asthma. 
  • Taking daily oral medications for asthma
  • Using air purifier in your room
  • Changing bedding often
  • Preventing pets from coming to the bedroom
  • Sleeping with upper body elevated.

Why is it hard to sleep with asthma?

It is hard to sleep with asthma due to congestion, secretions, snoring, nighttime coughing, wheezing and breathing issues which can lead to the person waking up at night and reducing sleep quality. 

What is the best sleeping position for your lungs?

Lying on your back with shoulders and next alleviated is the best position to sleep with that prevents lung construction. This position requires you to sleep in supine position- that is one your back- and have your upper back, shoulders and neck supported by pillows. 

Experts believe that by supporting your upper body with two or three pillows can help open up your airways especially if your sinuses tend to drain more during the night. 

Sleeping with your upper body alleviate can help your breathing easier since it looses up the airways instead of constricting it.

What drink is good for asthma?

According to Helathline, Certain herbal teas may help relieve asthma symptoms such as ginger tea, green tea, black tea, eucalyptus tea, fennel tea, and licorice tea which can help in reducing inflammation.

Is asthma worse at night?

People who have asthma tend to notice that their symptoms get worse in the evenings and in most cases, it tends to affect their sleep due to symptoms related to Nocturnal Asthma. 

Nocturnal asthma is what disrupts sleep and causes people to wake up at least once a week caused by various bed time factors such as-  drop in temperature, allergens on one’s bed etc- leads to asthma triggers.

References

Kalolela A. B. (2016). Sleeping position and reported night-time asthma symptoms and medication. The Pan African medical journal, 24, 59. https://doi.org/10.11604/pamj.2016.24.59.9159

Greiner.B. Asthma And Sleeping Positions: What’s The Link? Asthma.net. Retrieved on 7th march 2022.https://asthma.net/living/best-sleeping-position

Watson.K. What Is the Best Sleep Position If You Have Asthma? Healthline. Retrieved on 7th March 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/asthma/how-to-sleep-with-asthma-positions

Asthma. MayoClinic. Retrieved on 7th march 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/symptoms-causes/syc-20369653#:~:text=Asthma%20is%20a%20condition%20in,asthma%20is%20a%20minor%20 nuisance.

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