Asthma Getting Worse At Night Is More Common Than You Think. Here's Why

Between things like insomnia, kids, pets, and too much afternoon caffeine, a good night's sleep can be hard to come by. And if you have asthma, bedtime can be extra stressful, since this might be the time of day that you may have extra difficulty breathing. In fact, as many as 70% of people with asthma experience worse symptoms at night, according to CNN Health. But why?

To answer this question, we must first address the basics of asthma. When you have asthma, your airways become inflamed and narrow, making breathing difficult (via Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America). This can happen when you're exposed to some kind of trigger like dust mites, air pollution, smoke, exercise, animal allergens, or weather changes. You might experience symptoms like shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, or chest pain and tightness. 

Asthma is typically managed by taking medication for asthma and allergies, and by avoiding triggers, such as staying away from smoke and not getting too close to pets. It's estimated that more than 25 million Americans live with asthma, but it's possible to live a healthy life and manage symptoms well. But if your asthma symptoms are flaring up at night, there are some different potential explanations, and a few strategies that might help you get a good night's rest.

Nighttime asthma and how to treat it

If you have asthma, you might notice symptoms that pop up only at night or worsen as the evening goes on. Doctors aren't totally sure why this can happen, but which classification of asthma you belong to may dictate how your asthma behaves at night (via Self). There are four types of asthma: mild intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent, and severe persistent. Moderate and severe classifications usually mean that you're having symptoms at least one night per week, if not more often.

This could be because there are more triggers present where you sleep, like dust mites or pet dander in your bed. When you spend 7-9 hours in bed, these allergens can interfere with breathing, making sleep difficult. Your levels of the stress hormone cortisol could also increase at night, which causes the airways to become inflamed. If you have other health conditions, they might interact with asthma and make your symptoms worse. Sleep apnea and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are two conditions that can also make it harder for you to get some shuteye.

Some ways to help treat nighttime asthma are using a rescue inhaler, sipping water, and sleeping in a more upright position (via CNN Health). You could also make changes to your medication dosage or even the timing of taking your medication. Talk to your doctor about your treatment plan and how to best manage nighttime asthma.