How Seniors with COPD Can Get Better Sleep

By Michelle Cemental

As we get older, getting a good night’s rest often becomes more important and more difficult. Many seniors don’t need to be told how difficult it is to sleep with aches and pains, but one of the biggest obstacles to sleeping well is being able to breathe clearly.

COPD and Sleep

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a term used to describe a variety of breathing related problems like chronic bronchitis and emphysema. People suffering from COPD can often find it hard to breathe, especially at night. Lying down can naturally obstruct the body’s airways, especially if the person is overweight.

But that doesn’t mean relief isn’t out there. Here are some helpful tips seniors can use to manage their COPD.

1. Retrain Your Breathing

Those of us lucky enough to not have breathing problems put very little thought into breathing. You can, however, train yourself to breathe deliberately using a variety of breathing techniques that strengthen your lungs and can provide relief for COPD patients.

Focusing on breathing from your diaphragm will make you breaths more powerful and can help reduce shortness of breath. Practicing this during the day when you have time to yourself will help you focus on it when it’s time to hit the hay.

2. Get Your Shots

Individuals with COPD, especially seniors, are at a higher risk for influenza and lung infections. COPD can make something like the flu a lot more dangerous, so it’s very important to get your immunizations each year and monitor your health closely.

More regular visits to your doctor will also help you determine what is and isn’t working in your COPD management strategy. They’ll be able to help you figure out sleeping techniques that you might not think of yourself.

3. Give Yourself Enough Time To Sleep

Sleeping at the right times is just as important as sleeping the right number of hours. Seniors with COPD and other breathing issues may find themselves waking up frequently during the night and taking longer to fall asleep than they used to.

Plan for both of these situations by allocating more time to fall asleep. Ask your doctor about any special medical equipment you may need to ensure a good night’s rest.

4. Manage Mucus

Obstructed airways from excess mucus will be a very familiar situation to most COPD patients. Fortunately, your doctor can teach you techniques to help you intentionally bring up and expel mucus from your airways. Doing this before bed can help ensure your airways are as clear as possible before you lay down, where nasal drip will cause them to slowly fill again.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask your doctor about this. Management techniques like this are one of the best actions you can take for immediate relief and will provide consistent benefits to you.

5. See a Specialist

Your primary care physician is no doubt giving you the best care they can. If you’re finding that the above steps aren’t enough, it may be time to speak to a specialist. If you have COPD, it’s likely that you are already seeing a COPD specialist and are going in for examinations more than your peers. You may also want to ask your doctor for a referral to a sleep specialist.

Sleep specialists can focus their time on studying your sleep habits and behaviors while your COPD team works on improving your general quality of life. If you have the means, this is a great option that can provide comprehensive care.


If you’re suffering from COPD, you are not alone. There are many cases in the US alone, and many doctors who have dedicated their lives to finding a solution. While falling asleep may be one of the hardest times of the day for you, following the tips in this guide will hopefully provide you with some much-needed relief.

The main takeaway here is that there are things you can do, you aren’t alone, and there are good people out there who are trained to help you. You may be suffering, but with positivity and determination, you can improve your sleep and quality of life.

Personalized care for seniors with copd

Tags: COPD