Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung condition that can make it difficult to breathe. According to one survey, about 40 percent of people with COPD report that getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge.
Sleep and COPD are connected in several ways.
Breathing difficulties from COPD affect sleep
People with COPD may experience sleep disturbances due to their condition. They may experience symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. These symptoms can be particularly severe at night, making it difficult for people with COPD to get a good night’s sleep.
Breathing difficulties can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, leading to poor sleep quality and a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which a person’s airway becomes blocked during sleep, causing them to stop breathing briefly. This can lead to disrupted sleep and a range of health problems, including heart disease and stroke.
When COPD and sleep apnea occur together, it’s known as “overlap syndrome.” Combined, these two conditions cause a major drop in oxygen during sleep, which increases the risk of chronic health problems.
Sleep problems can worsen COPD symptoms
Poor sleep can worsen symptoms of COPD, as the body relies on sleep to repair and regenerate. Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue and increased inflammation in the body, which can make breathing difficulties worse.
Lack of sleep can also weaken the immune system, making a person more susceptible to respiratory infections, which are a common complication of COPD. In turn, illness can worsen COPD symptoms and make it even harder to sleep.
Also, a recent study found a link between poor sleep and an increased risk of life-threatening COPD flare-ups. The risk for these flare-ups, which are sudden bouts of worsened breathing, was 25 to 95 percent higher in people with poor sleep.
Sleep and COPD are connected in that COPD can cause sleep disturbances, and sleep disturbances can worsen the symptoms of COPD.
It’s important for people with COPD to prioritize healthy sleep habits and seek help if they’re experiencing sleep problems. By addressing your sleep needs, you can improve your symptoms and overall health.
Medical review by Reeba Mathew MD, FCCP