Sleeping Sitting Upright.

Sleeping Sitting Upright

Recently, I was working with a newly diagnosed teenager and her family so they could learn about asthma.

We have a standard lesson that we teach each person (or family), but everyone that I help has had a different experience with asthma. Some have been in the hospital, some in the ER, and some have stayed at home but had a course of oral steroids (prednisone).

Asthma lessons for all

But, I always listen to the person or family I am teaching, because they all have different questions besides what's in the lesson. Some are newly diagnosed. Some have had asthma for a long time, but just can't seem to get it under control. And some are just there because their doctor told them they have to listen to me and see if I can help them with their asthma.

They don't know how lucky they are, because not only am I professionally trained as a certified asthma educator (AE-C), but I also have asthma. So, I understand what it's like to have good and bad days with asthma, especially when I get a cold (that always goes into bronchitis.) I also have three adult children with asthma. So, I know what it's like to be a parent and worrying about your kids because they are sick, and are they going to end up in the hospital again?

So, not only do I read professional medical journal articles and attend the National Association of Asthma Educators conference but as a patient with asthma, I have learned many things over the years that have helped my asthma (or my kid's asthma).

Difficulty sleeping with asthma

One of those is that it's a LOT harder for me to breathe when I lay down when I'm battling bronchitis. So, sleeping in bed at night isn't going to work for me. Instead, I prop myself up on pillows on my couch and sleep in the living room. When my kids were little, the asthma doctor would tell me to roll up towels and put them under the head of the mattress so it was elevated. That seemed to really help my kids sleep better and not cough as much during the night. (Of course, my kids were wild sleepers, so I put up a little bumper guard on the side of the bed so they wouldn't fall out.)

Asthma UK says:1

"Try propping them up. Some parents find their child coughs less and sleeps better if they sleep propped up with pillows, which helps to keep their airways open."

How sleeping upright can help

Always the science nerd, I want to know the science behind why it helps to sleep propped up on pillows. The Pan African Medical Journal (PAMJ), published a study called, "Sleeping position and reported night-time asthma symptoms and medication".

The study says:2

"Nighttime asthma symptoms are very distressing for patients because the condition awakens the patient, necessitating the patient to take drugs at night and limiting patient activity the following day."

In other words, if we are up several times during the night coughing, and need to have an albuterol breathing treatment on the nebulizer, we might be a little cranky the next day. Okay, a LOT cranky the next day.

The results of the study said:2

"...the patient had significant reduction in asthma symptoms and reduced night-time medication, reduced episodes of night awakening due to asthma symptoms, and improved capability for normal works."

There's a lot more science in the article, so feel free to read the rest of it. And do a little research on your own and see if it would help you (or your kids) asthma to sleep sitting upright. I'm willing to try anything that will help me breathe better!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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