We all know that getting the right amount of quality sleep is very important for our mental and physical health. However, some people with asthma and other respiratory conditions can find it challenging to get comfortable and maintain a good sleep pattern. 

Your sleep position, household triggers, and room temperature can all contribute to getting a more comfortable relaxing sleep. 

Sleep position 

During deep stages of sleep, your body’s muscles relax, and your lungs experience more airflow resistance. When you sleep flat on your back, the weight of your chest also increases pressure on your lungs and throat (particularly if you’re carrying a few extra kilos), which can result in snoring and sleep disruption. Reflux, postnasal drip, hay fever or sinusitis can also be exacerbated when lying on your back, causing coughing and discomfort. 

Here’s what to do: 

  • Try sleeping on your side, or if you must sleep on your back, prop up/elevate your head and shoulders using pillows 
  • Avoid eating and drinking just before bedtime 
  • Ask your GP about nasal sprays or other treatments for nasal congestion 
  • Discuss your concerns about snoring with your GP 

Household triggers 

Pets, pollen, mould, smoke, and dust mites are common household and bedroom irritants that may trigger your asthma symptoms overnight (coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath). 

Here’s what to do:  

  • Make your bedroom a pet-free zone
  • Locate any sources of mould in your room and have it treated (make sure you wear a mask if you are using harsh chemicals!)
  • Keep windows closed when you are sleeping, especially in high pollen count times such as early morning (but remember to air your room out regularly during the day)
  • Consider investing in special dust mite-free bedding (available through Respiratory Care WA’s online store)


Cooler overnight temperatures or hot and humid weather can trigger your asthma symptoms and restrict your airways. 

Here’s what to do:  

  • Warm/cool the room before going to sleep and avoid sleeping with the air conditioner on
  • Keep heaters on low with a fan to circulate the air
  • Use a timer to restart the heater during the early morning when it is coolest
  • Humidifiers can also be helpful to balance out cold dry air

Managing asthma symptoms at night 

AlwAlways follow your asthma or COPD Action Plan when you have a flare-up of symptoms. This may include taking your reliever or other medications as prescribed by your doctor.

IIf your asthma symptoms are waking you, it could be an indication that your asthma is not under control, and you require an asthma review with your doctor. This might include updating your action plan, medications and identifying any possible triggers of your symptoms. 

If your symptoms are severe overnight and do not settle after using your reliever medication, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible by calling triple-zero (000) for an ambulance. Continue administering Asthma First Aid until the ambulance arrives.

Still exhausted? Ask about sleep apnea.  

If you’ve tried everything else, and you’re still exhausted from the moment you wake up, consider talking to your doctor about being assessed for sleep apnea. Snoring, episodes of pauses in your breathing, fatigue and headache are common symptoms. Not only can these cause poor sleep quality, they can also negatively impact your health. Your doctor may send you for a sleep study to confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea and, if confirmed, can work with you to manage the condition. 

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