How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep When You Have Pneumonia

Trying to sleep or rest while you have pneumonia can be difficult. Even though pneumonia can make you tired and run down, it still interferes with sleep. Thankfully, there are some things you can try to minimize this burden so that you can get your recovery back on track. 

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Pneumonia overview 

Pneumonia is a respiratory tract condition caused by bacterial or viral lung infections. This infection can persist in one or both lungs. 

Pneumonia causes the air sacs in the lungs to fill up with fluid, making breathing uncomfortable. Therefore, when you are lying down at night, it can be difficult to sleep due to the discomfort caused by this illness. 

The severity of your pneumonia can also make it difficult to sleep. For instance, people with mild cases may find it easier to sleep than those with severe pneumonia. That's because severe pneumonia has additional symptoms, such as extreme shortness of breath and the feeling that you cannot get enough air into your lungs. 

Symptoms

Symptoms that you are likely to experience with pneumonia include:

  • A fever

  • A sore throat

  • Hoarseness 

  • Headaches 

  • A persistent cough

  • Shortness of breath 

  • Chest pain due to excessive coughing

  • Weight loss

  • Gastrointestinal disturbances, such as nausea

  • Body aches

Severe symptoms include:

  • Dyspnea (extreme shortness of breath, the feeling that you cannot get enough air into your lungs) 

  • Fatigue and tiredness

  • Inability to focus 

If you can, try to pinpoint which symptoms keep you awake at night. Then you could try treating those symptoms accordingly to help with sleep. 

Causes

Pneumonia is caused by either a bacterial or viral infection of the lungs. 

Examples of possible bacterial infections include: 

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae

  • Legionella pneumoniae, known as Legionnaires' disease 

  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae

  • Haemophilus influenzae

Examples of possible viral infections are: 

  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

  • Influenza 

  • SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19

These infections are spread via respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs. However, during the early stages of the disease, you may appear asymptomatic, which means signs or symptoms are yet to develop. Therefore, people often spread these infections unknowingly. 

If your doctor can determine what caused your pneumonia, they can provide you with a targeted treatment. 

Treatment 

If you are struggling to sleep, this might indicate that it's time to ask your doctor for treatment. The standard treatment for pneumonia is antibiotics or antiviral medications. 

Quite often, doctors prescribe different types of antibiotics for various bacterial infections. However, if a virus causes your pneumonia, your doctor will avoid prescribing antibiotics because they are typically intended for bacterial infections only. If that's the case, your doctor may recommend an antiviral medication. 

How does pneumonia impact sleep? 

Pneumonia impacts sleep by making it difficult to breathe while lying in bed. The pain or discomfort from the illness may also prevent you from sleeping, or excessive coughing and congestion can keep you awake. 

How to improve sleep 

1. Elevate your head 

One of the best techniques is elevating your head so it's higher than your chest. As a result, you may find breathing easier because it allows the respiratory congestion and phlegm to drain more easily. 

2. Treatment 

If you find that your symptoms and sleep disturbances are getting worse and not better, you may need to consider treatment, such as antibiotics or antiviral medication. If you already have treatment, ensure that you keep taking it as recommended, or revisit your doctor if you don't notice an improvement within a few days. 

As a result of treatment, you may notice that your symptoms improve, which could make sleeping easier. Don't hesitate to ask your doctor for treatment when seeking medical advice. 

If you feel discomfort from pain or fever, you could also try ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Do not take more than the recommended dose or more frequently than recommended on the medication bottle.

3. Avoid smoking and alcohol 

Unfortunately, smoking and alcohol will only worsen your symptoms, which is more likely to keep you awake. If you have trouble giving up either of those, speak to your doctor for further advice. 

4. Have a hot beverage before sleep 

Before you go to bed, try a hot beverage — for example, a herbal tea or lemon, honey, and ginger drink. The heat from these drinks could work as a decongestant, helping clear your lungs so you can breathe more easily. 

5. Cold and flu remedies 

Cold and flu remedies such as cough syrup or lozenges could also help you sleep better if excessive coughing keeps you awake at night. 

The lowdown

There are a few things you can try to improve your sleep. However, if you haven't already tried a treatment, such as antibiotics or antiviral medication, and you're finding it difficult to sleep, this could indicate that it's time to see your doctor for further help.

Don't hesitate to ask your doctor for treatment because when pneumonia is left untreated for too long, it can cause lung damage.

FAQ

Does pneumonia cause you to sleep a lot?

As pneumonia causes fatigue and tiredness, you could be prone to sleeping more. However, frequent daytime naps could make it harder to sleep at night by disrupting your sleeping patterns. You may also notice that sleep quality has decreased due to discomfort from the symptoms. 

What should you not do when you have pneumonia?

While recovering from pneumonia, do not overexert yourself, as this will only make your recovery time longer. The best thing to do is rest until you feel better. It would help if you also stayed at home to avoid infecting others. 

Is it better to sit up or lie down with pneumonia?

Whether you're in bed or resting on the couch, you may find it more comfortable to sit up or prop yourself up with extra pillows. That's because an upright position allows the congestion to drain from your nose and throat more easily.

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