COPD and Sleep

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

At first, it isn’t immediately obvious how chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can have an impact on slumber. That’s because COPD isn’t a sleep disorder; it’s a category of lung disorders that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. But there are three main reasons why this link exists.

  • COPD Symptoms May Disturb Slumber

The main symptoms of COPD are difficulty breathing, chronic coughing, and a tight chest, all of which can cause a person to suffer from sleep problems and sleepiness.

  • COPD Drugs May Affect ZZZ's

Many medications that are used to treat COPD can cause insomnia, daytime sleepiness, and frequent urination (which can disrupt sleep).

  • Some COPD Patients Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This is a situation that's known as overlap syndrome. Anyone who has sleep apnea already experiences poor sleep due to frequent awakenings, but the effects are amplified if the person also has COPD. The normal lung function of a COPD sufferer is at a lower-than-optimal level. So when oxygen levels dip, thanks to sleep apnea, this can amplify the already-low lung function and create even more serious side effects.

Even though COPD can impact your sleep, there are things that you can do to find relief. For those who think that their medication is causing insomnia or affecting their sleep in any other way, it’s important to speak with a doctor. There might be a different medication that you can take that does not have that same side effect. If you have COPD combined with sleep apnea, a CPAP machine can help. And you might also want to talk to your physician about something called nighttime oxygen therapy, which is a technique that people with advanced COPD can use to improve their sleep. You can also ask your doctor whether a prescription or over-the-counter sleep aid would be safe and effective.