Deep sleep often eludes those of us with COPD, but rather it comes in fits and starts of short periods of light sleep but never the deep REM that is required for us to wake up refreshed. I usually sleep for a solid 2 to 3 hours but then I wake and it is nearly always impossible for me to get back to sleep. If I have to get up in the morning for work or an appointment it causes my anxiety levels to elevate. Daily naps, make you feel good at the time but rob you of sleep later on in the night exasperating the problem and causing a vicious cycle.
When you sleep
your already compromised system of breathing will automatically slow down and as your body goes into a deeper sleep you may become breathless. This causes a startle effect and wakes you up suddenly in a panic mode. Sometimes you don’t even realize why you woke with a fright. Some people say that they wake with a feeling of drowning or dreaming of having their throat restricted and choking. Very often we are not sure if it was the result of a dream or if we really did feel our breathing being compromised. This is a really good symptom not to ignore. Talk to your doctor, the sooner the better.
Here Are Some of the Ways That I Have Learned to Get the Best Sleep
First ask your doctor for an overnight oximeter test if you haven`t already had one. The oximeter is a piece of equipment that wraps around your finger and reads your oxygen levels and your heart rate. It can be done at home with the help of your oxygen supply company. You will sleep with an oximeter taped to your finger. It is done in the comfort of your own bed with little fanfare and will produce a report that is sent to your specialist, who can then estimate how well or poorly your oxygen system is performing while you are sleeping. You may need oxygen at night to help you sleep better and allow your heart and lungs to rest.
Next, your doctor may ask for a sleep study that will help to indicate how many times you wake in an hour, on average. This is an overnight test that must be done in a controlled setting while you are being monitored. That means sleeping overnight but it is only for one night. Depending on the results your doctor may prescribe a CPap or BiPap machine to aid your breathing.
My doctor put me on a BiPap machine and it has been a blessing. Getting used to the wearing a mask on your face may cause some anxiety but it will not take any time to become adjusted because you will sleep so much better. My doctor is positive that using my BiPap is keeping me from going into lung failure.
Most people in my stage cannot lie in a prone position and still breathe. Sleeping in an elevated position will usually aid your breathing so you can get more breath with intake and expel more oxygen on outtake. Some people try to sleep in a Lazy Boy, I don’t have one so I didn’t try it but I did for about 6 months when I had my gallbladder out and it worked great but face it, there is nothing like you own bed.
I use a wedge in my bed. Piling up a bunch of pillows will only work until you fall asleep and you will surely slide down again. A hospital type bed will work but it is bulky and I don’t like to think about hospital stuff when at home. Go ahead, break down and buy the wedge. It could change your life.
Have a comfortable pillow for sleeping. Yes, even with a wedge I use a pillow and because I am also a side sleeper I also use a body pillow. I breathe better on my right side and my body pillow keeps my spine in alignment and relieves hip strain. Invest in as good a mattress as you can afford and make sure your sheets are Percale and at least a 300 thread count. Thread count matters. I also sleep with multiple light-weight blankets so the cooler the better.
To keep your room at a cooler temperature I use an overhead fan as well as a desk fan and keep the window open, just a little bit. It helps to regulate my body temperature and keeps me from heating up and having a coughing fit..
Vacuum and clean your room daily especially if pets sleep in your room or on your bed. Never let dust pile up on bed posts or dressers and keep the floors vacuumed or swept. Always use scent free products for cleaning and look up Pinterest for homemade, inexpensive cleaning ideas. Be sure that your fans are taken apart and cleaned regularly.
Change your sheets as often as possible and keep them laundered with scent free products. Only use blankets that are machine washable and lightweight. Blankets that are too heavy restrict nightly movement and are often unmanageable when you try to make your bed.
Clean your CPap/BiPap equipment regularly especially the mask that should be cleaned every morning. Make sure that you replace the mask liner with some frequency as this is what makes a good suction so that no pressures are escaping the mask. Hoses and tubes should be replaced every 6 to 12 months and inspected regularly.
Diet and Exercise
play a key role in your health now but always complete your exercise earlier in the day. Exercising at night will be like getting that second wind at 11:00 pm. Too much sugary food or caffeine are NOT your friend. They are often empty calories that we can ill afford and promote wakefulness and contribute to restfulness. Lean meats and 6 small meals a day are ideal for healthy breathing. Lots of fruits and vegetables keep you from too much bloat that is extremely uncomfortable especially at night. You should have a snack at your quiet time so you are not too full but never hungry going to bed.
Don`t read in bed or watch TV in bed. Your bedroom should reflect quiet time and sleepy time not TV and music time.
Ask your doctor how may steps or miles or what kind of exercise you should do. With the sedentary life that we lead, exercise is a must. If you have not been to Rehab try to make an effort to attend so that you are sure of what kinds and how much exercise you should be doing.
Have a bedtime routine.
- Set out your clothes the night before, especially if you have appointments in the morning. Preset your coffee or tea for the morning, have as much of your breakfast pre-made as possible and if your day consists of a “to go lunch” have it packed and ready to take with you. Morning is not the time to be running around trying to get out the door.
- plan your hour, grab a cup of sleepy tea and turn off the TV and all electronics. This is a great time to meditate and practice mindfulness. Search Pinterest or You Tube for Guided Meditation/Mindfulness and you can download or just try one time and search for another one tomorrow. There are many so don’t settle for the first one you stumble upon. Try to find a quiet place to be alone without too many distractions, noise and chatter. A door would be nice.
- Read for a while or do a puzzle or fill out your diary, anything that will slow your mind and allow you to unwind. I like to complete my diary by writing down what kind of day I had recording if I met my daily goals and making a list of tomorrows goals so I can forget about it while I sleep. I use a tracker system that I fill out in my journal and show to the Doctor/Specialist at my routine appointments because much of my day revolves around my exercise routine.
- Have a bed time and strictly adhere to it, and have an alarm set so you can get up at the same time every morning. Consistency is the key to getting a good nights sleep.
- Sleep in the dark.
- Eliminate noise.
- Get comfortable.
- Meditate and be Mindful of your space and your how you feel.
- Manifest a good night’s sleep.
- Believe this: if you can see it, it will become real. A positive attitude is everything.