What Are The Best Sleep Positions For Asthma?

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Why do asthma symptoms get aggravated at night?

Why asthma symptoms worsen at night, mainly while you're sleeping, is still a mystery. One explanation is that the airways contract in colder temperatures, aggravating the symptoms. Sitting in a reclined position or overexposure to allergens in the bedroom may also be to blame. 

Additionally, the release of hormones associated with circadian rhythms or variations in bronchial performance brought on by sleep itself may cause your asthma to worsen at night.

The three best sleep positions if you have asthma

Doctors recommend specific sleeping positions to help people reduce asthma symptoms and make obtaining a better night's sleep simpler. Here are the four most ideal positions to consider if you're wondering how to sleep with asthma:

Lie on your left side

Lying on your left side may help you manage asthma symptoms and get good sleep. This is because left-side sleeping helps keep your airways open. Also, adding a pillow between your legs is a good way to support your spine while you sleep and may even make it easier for you to breathe.

Sleeping on your left side offers further benefits as it can reduce gastroesophageal reflux and heartburn — this is beneficial since heartburn is a potential trigger of asthma at night. Lying on your left side lessens acid reflux by taking advantage of gravity, stomach shape, and the angle at which the esophagus connects to the stomach.

Sleep on your back

Sleeping on your back while using two or more pillows to elevate your back and shoulders is an effective way to ensure that you open up your airways as you sleep. When you sleep with pillows beneath your shoulders, gravity helps sinus drainage occur more frequently at night. This allows you to breathe more easily while you sleep.

Sitting position

Most often, individuals with arm or shoulder pain may find it challenging to sleep on their side. Sometimes, nocturnal asthma can become so severe that sleeping on your back or side is no longer an option. In this case, sleeping in a sitting position might be more beneficial to keep the airways from becoming blocked.

Sleeping positions to avoid if you are asthmatic

Avoid sleeping flat on your back without an elevated neck and shoulders since it can worsen your symptoms. Sleeping on your right side can worsen your symptoms by causing your lungs' airways to become more constricted. You should avoid and refrain from sleeping on your stomach.

Although some individuals perceive lying on their stomachs to be soothing, this posture prevents sufficient airflow into your lungs while sleeping.

Finding the ideal sleeping position for someone with asthma might be challenging, but if you try the positions described above, you will ultimately discover what works for you. Start by deciding on a posture, maintain it for about a week, and note any changes in your asthma symptoms or sleep quality. Then, repeat the process in a different spot. With time, this may improve your sleep.

Additional recommendations on sleeping with asthma

As well as attempting to find the right sleeping position to ease your asthma symptoms, there are several steps you can take to improve the quality of your sleep. These include:

  • Regular cleaning of your bedroom: The bedroom frequently contains dust and other allergens that cause asthma. Thus, keeping your bedroom and bedding clean reduces the number of irritants you breathe in at night. Be sure to vacuum regularly as well.

  • Using a dust-proof pillow and allergen-proof bed covers: To manage your asthma symptoms, you need a dust-mite-free environment, provided by a dust-proof mattress cover and pillow. Also, invest in allergen-proof bed covers.

  • Utilizing an air purifier: This helps lower the number of allergens in the air. Therefore, it can prevent you from breathing in allergen-filled air that exacerbates asthmatic symptoms.

  • Washing your bedding regularly: Wash your bedding at a high temperature regularly to get rid of allergies and bacteria.

  • Keeping your bedroom pet-free: Preferably, pets should never be allowed in the bedroom since their dander can adhere to the sheets and other soft items and trigger asthma symptoms. If at all possible, keep them away from your bedroom.

  • Closing your bedroom windows: Pollen, air pollutants, and temperature changes can irritate preexisting asthma symptoms. Be sure to keep your bedroom windows closed, especially when sleeping.

When to see the doctor

Nighttime asthma can be a terrifying experience. It is a good idea to address the symptoms with your doctor. For instance, you should consult a doctor if, despite receiving medication, you discover that your asthma symptoms are causing you to wake up at night more than once per week.

A doctor might assist in altering your treatment regimen or implementing a healthy sleeping habit to help with sleep quality.

The Lowdown

Nocturnal or nighttime asthma is common among asthmatic people. It is a condition that can cause sleeping disorders, hence making it difficult for a person to fall asleep. Precautions like lying on your left side while putting a pillow between your legs or sleeping on your back with an elevated back and shoulders can help you sleep soundly and comfortably. 

However, finding the ideal sleeping posture might not be enough to eliminate your asthma symptoms. It is advisable to consider other trigger elements from your sleeping environment, such as dust mites and pet dander. And if your asthma symptoms worsen, be sure to consult a medical professional.

Have you considered clinical trials for Asthma?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Asthma, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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Last updated: Nov 2022

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