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Chronic Lung Disease: Managing Sleep Problems

Chronic lung diseases include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Most common of these are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. But they also include pulmonary fibrosis or sarcoidosis. If you have one of these conditions, you may have trouble sleeping. You may wake up often at night. Or you may not feel rested in the morning. There are many reasons you may not get a good night’s sleep. Lung disease can make it harder to breathe at night. Other things can affect sleep. These include age, certain medicines, and not getting enough activity during the day.

Man in bed sleeping on back.

Sleeping better

If you’re having trouble sleeping, try the following:

  • Use a breathing method. Taking slow, deep breaths can help you relax and fall asleep.

    • Ask your healthcare provider to show you how to do pursed-lip and diaphragmatic breathing in bed. Both methods are good for people with lung disease.

  • Don’t have drinks with caffeine in the afternoon or evening. 

  • Try to go to sleep and wake up at about the same time every day. This helps your body get into a pattern.

  • Don't take long naps during the day. This can make it harder to sleep at night. A very short nap should be OK.

  • Make your bed and bedroom comfortable. This includes temperature, light, and noise level.

  • Don't watch TV or use your computer or phone in bed. Only use your bed for sleep and sex.

  • Talk with your provider about any medicines you take at bedtime. They may be keeping you awake. You may be able to take the medicine at a different time.

  • Talk with your provider about trying cognitive behavioral therapy. It works by changing behavior.

  • In some cases prescription or over-the-counter medicines may help you sleep better for a short time.


To help you breathe at night, your provider may prescribe CPAP or BiPAP. You may be given a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device. Or you may be given a BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) device. These devices send a gentle flow of air through a nasal mask while you sleep. This air goes through your nose and into your lungs. Your airways stay open. Below are tips for using these devices:

  • It may take some time to get used to the device. Ask your provider how to make it more comfortable.

  • If your mask doesn’t fit or feel right, talk with your provider about adjusting it. Or you may try a different mask. Custom-made masks are also available.

  • These devices work best if your nose is clear. If you have allergies or other problems that block your nose, talk with your provider.

Online Medical Reviewer: Alan J Blaivas DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: John Hanrahan MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2019
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