If you’re like me, you find your asthma worse at night. If only I had a penny for every time I used to wake up at night with bad asthma and wheezing.
Until I discovered this simple trick I’m about to share, I don’t know if I ever made it through the night without needing my puffer.
Now, I barely ever use my albuterol inhaler for asthma symptoms, even at night.
Why Is Asthma Worse at Night?
Many things can be triggering your asthma at night. Postnasal drip and allergies can be made worse when you’re lying down, which can trigger attacks. Airways also naturally narrow at night, and we produce more mucous.
Your hormones and body clock can also come into play, and people often turn up the AC at night, too, which can be triggering for some people.
Waking up struggling to breathe is an awful experience – and unfortunately a common one for people with asthma. And this insidious problem doesn’t just ruin your night, either. Lack of proper sleep is associated with a host of health issues – not to mention, just having a bad day.
So How Do You Stop Asthma Symptoms at Night?
There’s a really simple trick to combat nighttime asthma. It started working immediately for me – in fact, not only did it help at night, but overall it had a noticeable effect on my daytime symptoms, too.
The ‘miracle cure’ is putting medical tape over your lips when you go to sleep, or wearing an anti-snoring chin strap to keep your mouth shut. Yes, it’s that simple.
This trick for asthma at night comes to us from Buteyko, and if you haven’t heard of Buteyko, I know this sounds a little weird!
Buteyko’s major tenet is that asthma is caused by overbreathing.
Just like you can over-eat, you can over-breathe. Over-breathing creates chronic hyperventilation, which is very bad for your long-term health – and for your asthma.
A major culprit in over-breathing is breathing through your mouth. Breathing through your mouth is reeealllly bad for asthma.
Now, you may think that you always breathe through your nose – and during the day, you probably do.
But when you’re asleep it’s a different story.
I guess because you get more congested at night, you’re apt to unconsciously start breathing through your mouth while you sleep. I know I did.
If you ever wake up with a sore throat or dry mouth, that’s a sure sign your mouth was open.
So putting tape over your lips is going to prevent you from mouth breathing at night, and this, in my experience, will keep your symptoms at bay.
I use gentle paper medical tape, horizontally across my mouth (here’s a link to my favorite type). I fold over the edges before putting it on, which will make it easier to pull off in the morning.
I use medical tape, because it’s easy, and multipurpose. But some people may prefer these Snoreless Strips, which are specifically designed for taping the mouth.
Some caveats: this is probably not a good idea if you’re feeling sick and nauseous and/or if you’ve been drinking or doing drugs. And of course this probably doesn’t mix well with certain medications. I never tape my lips so tightly that I couldn’t breathe through my mouth in an emergency.
Many Buteyko practitioners say taping the lips is appropriate for children, simply suggesting you make sure to use a long enough piece of tape to avoid choking. But I’d probably be cautious using it on little ones.
We’re not doctors; use your common sense here. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns. And if taping your mouth is just too weird, consider a anti-snoring chin strap. It’ll do the same thing, by keeping your jaw in place.
And yes, it’s a really weird feeling the first night. My wife, Emma, who may have mild sleep apnea and definitely was a nighttime mouth-breather (but not asthmatic), also swears by this trick now. But she was really apprehensive about using it the first time.
But here’s the thing – if, for some reason, you become physically unable to breathe through your nose, you’re going to wake up. You might even take the tape off in your sleep – I did a few times when I first started.
If it still seems like an unusual idea, try taping your mouth in the evening, before bed. You’ll be surprised how quickly you get used to wearing it.
It was taping my mouth and trying to reduce my mouth breathing that had the quickest and most long term effect on my asthma (you can read more about my journey here). That’s why I love this tip and why I’m excited to share. Not only is it simple and effective, it’s almost free, too. A roll of medical tape only costs a few dollars, and it lasts for months.
And of course, most of us asthmatics also have lots of nasal issues, too. Sometimes I combine taping my lips with nasal strips to really beat my nighttime asthma!
More Sleep Hygiene Tips
I realize that not everyone is going to want to try taping their mouth shut, at least at first blush. That’s why I’ve enlisted my wife Emma, a reformed insomniac, to share what’s helped her sleep better.
Since the best way to treat asthma is through lifestyle changes, improving your sleep hygiene in general might have a bigger impact on your symptoms that you’d expect!
Maybe not what you were expecting, but her first tip happens well before nighttime. It’s just easier to sleep when you’ve exhausted your body throughout the day. Emma does a lot of pilates and cardio, but you need to find what works for you. Here’s how I exercise with asthma.
Sacred Hour Before Bed
You’ve probably heard this one before, because it’s true. Staring at screens, watching intense television or playing video games right up until bedtime can leave you too wired to fall asleep. Instead, try to come up with a relaxing routine you enjoy for the last hour before bed. If you absolutely can’t give up your screen (say, because you like to read ebooks), then try some computer-reading glasses that block out blue light. We found these cheap ones on Amazon and they work pretty well.
Keep Your Room Very Dark Or Use An Eye Mask
Our apartment gets a bit more light than we’d like, so we found that eye masks made a BIG difference – no more waking up with the early morning sunrise! We LOVE these PrettyCare 3d sleep masks because they’ve beveled around your eye, making them super comfortable. Plus, you basically get two for the price of one (because they come in packs of two), so they’re a great deal.
Keep Your Room Cold – Without AC
Keeping your room as cold as possible is really important for overall sleep hygiene, but unfortunately, as mentioned, AC can be triggering for us asthmatics. I’m lucky enough to live in a cool enough place that simply using fans all year keeps my room cool enough for me. If you’re in a warmer place, this Chillipad, which keeps your mattress cool, might be worth the investment!
Don’t think you have to go it alone. There are lots of apps and podcasts out there that can help you relax at night. Emma used the Headspace Meditation for Sleep program and found it really helpful. There are also TONS of sleep meditation videos on YouTube that might help. This one, for example, is short and sweet and hopefully will get you snoozing in no time!
Try CBD Oil
And, bonus alert: CBD also really helps my asthma symptoms – read all about it here.
We highly recommend Pure Spectrum CBD to our readers in the US and Europe (here’s why). Use the coupon code ‘treatasthma’ when you make an order to get 10% off.
Emma learned most of these tips from sleep expert and neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker. If you struggle with sleep, you owe it to yourself to check out his book, Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.
Finally, if you’re like to learn more about Buteyko, we recommend starting with this this great, cheap book from a leading practitioner – or, simply following us on our asthma blog! We share lots about Buteyko and other natural remedies for asthma.