Optimal Sleeping Habits for Asthmatics
Many asthmatics and allergy sufferers have symptoms at night, particularly in the early morning hours. There appear to be two reasons for this:
- Cortisol levels dip to their lowest during this time, thus inflammatory responses in the body are at their highest,
- At night we have no control over our breathing - often our breathing is heavy, particularly if we are processing stressful events in our life during our sleep.
If we are not sleeping with our mouths closed there is an additional burden of airborne allergens entering the lungs unfiltered, and the nose will tend to clog up as a result of mouth breathing. Both of these will lead to increased asthma symptoms as well as increased sinus problems.
As a result it is very important to follow these rules to lessen your asthma and sinus symptoms:
Sleep on your side: Sleeping on your back leads to the heaviest breathing, which in turn results in decreased CO2 levels in the blood and alveoli (see the Buteyko Method page). This causes bronchial constriction. Sleeping on your left side is known to be the most beneficial for asthmatics as it automatically restricts your breathing (this has to do with the space taken up by your heart on the left side of your thoracic cavity). Sleeping on your side is also the least likely position to lead to sleeping with your mouth dropped open and lessens the likelihood for snoring. If you have trouble doing this, place a pillow behind your back. For some people, especially those with severe sleep apnea, the best solution is to sew a tennis ball into your Pyjama top.
Sleep with your mouth taped shut: This may sound weird, but it is one of the most essential ways for recovery from asthma if there is any chance at all that you sleep with your mouth open. If you snore, wake up with a stuffy nose or a dry throat, chances are that you do! If any of these apply to you, get yourself some inexpensive, hypoallergenic paper tape at the pharmacy and before you go to sleep place it lengthwise across your lips. In order to not hurt your lips when pulling it off you want to put some lip balm on your lips and also stick the tape to your hand a few times to take off some of the stickiness. If the thought of doing this disturbs you in any way place the tape over your lips during the daytime to get used to it. Once you have done it once you will realise it is not at all disturbing. You will wake up feeling so much better that you will never want to go a night without it!
3. Practice relaxation and reduced breathing before bed time: see the Buteyko Method page on detailed instructions. The basic idea is to reduce your breathing to build up your CO2 levels to a state that will keep your airways relaxed. If you practice daily and also do this before sleeping your body will eventually re-establish a healthy breathing pattern and you will no longer suffer from asthma attacks. Learning to truly relax, especially prior to sleeping, is key to gaining control over your asthma symptoms! You can listen to relaxing music if this helps you quiet your mind. Gregorian chants, solfeggio frequencies or guided meditations can be very helpful to help your nervous system to calm down. For a guided meditation you can get one on this site by clicking here.
4.Refrain from oversleeping: it is easy to get into a very unhealthy pattern if you suffer from asthma attacks or sinus congestion during the night. These will keep you from sleeping deeply, and for some nights become very disrupted. This in turn leads to fatigue during the day and the body never feels rested. However, over sleeping tends to worsen the asthma symptoms also. Personally I have found that if I wake up early (say after 4:30am) I am better off getting up and practicing reduced breathing and steps than trying to go back to sleep. If I allow myself to go back to sleep I end up with much more severe morning symptoms, and it may take the best part of the day to get them under control. It is better to take a nap during the day if you are tired and limit your time in bed at night to 6-8 hours.
NOTE: do not use a tape if you are feeling nauseous. This is in case you need to vomit, in which case a tape would be a hindrance.
5. Sleep on an incline: according to many accounts on Andrew Fletcher’s website http://inclinedbedtherapy.com, sleeping with a 15 cm (6 inch) lift under the legs of the head of your bed provides astounding health benefits, including benefits for respiratory and sinus problems. It costs nothing, so I think it is definitely worth a try! I believe that one of the mechanisms by which it works is that it reduces breathing.
6. Avoid stuffy bedrooms: stuffy bedrooms, overheating and too much clothing or bedding cause heavier breathing thereby increasing your chances of having symptoms.
7. Keep your bedroom free of allergens: make sure that you reduce your allergenic load in your bedroom by eliminating carpets and curtains. Make sure there is no humidity anywhere in the house, especially where you sleep. Use hypoallergenic bedding and wash all your bedclothes regularly. If you can hang your laundry out to dry in the sunshine.
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