It can be worrying when you lie down to go to sleep and suddenly find that you are short of breath. You may be finding it hard to catch your breath, feeling like you are being smothered, or feel like your chest is tight. There are several different reasons why you may be suffering from shortness of breath at night, including asthma, sleep apnoea, COPD, or heart failure.
What Is Shortness Of Breath?
Shortness of breath can feel like your breathing is restricted, that your lungs are unable to take in as much air as you need or like someone is sitting on your chest.
It is often referred to as dyspnoea, as orthopnoea when you are lying flat, and as paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnoea when it happens after you have been asleep for a couple of hours and it has an effect on a number of different parts of your body. Your heart will beat faster as it tries to get oxygen moving more quickly, and your lungs will be under more pressure due to irregular breathing.
Shortness Of Breath Symptoms
The symptoms of shortness of breath include:
- Tightness in your chest
- Feeling like breathing properly takes conscious effort
- Being unable to take a full breath
- The need to breathe quickly
- Feeling suffocated
If you are suffering from these symptoms, get in touch with a doctor. There are some more severe symptoms of this issue, and if you notice any of the below while you are experiencing shortness of breath, then you should contact emergency services immediately.
- Being unable to catch your breath even when relaxed or lying down
- Blue lips or fingertips, swollen feet and ankles
- Nausea or fainting
- Feeling winded for longer than 30 minutes
- A fever, chills, coughing
- Wheezing, rasping, or a whistling or high-pitched sound when you breathe
For more information, please read our article ‘3 signs that shortness of breath could be serious’.
Why Do I Struggle To Breathe At Night?
The causes range from sleep disorders to serious medical conditions. Here are some that you should be aware of.
- Panic disorder or anxiety: Panic attacks make you feel like you are in a state of fear and that you have lost control. The body’s panic response can leave you struggling to catch your breath, especially if your panic attack lasts for a few minutes.
- Heart failure: This term is used to describe a condition where the chambers of the heart are not able to pump blood around the body as well as it should. It also means that your heart is not relaxing in between those pumps. Heart failure causes a lot of different symptoms, and shortness of breath is one of the most common. Conditions such as obesity can also be a factor.
- Asthma: If you suffer from asthma, then you may notice that you are struggling to breathe at night due to your condition. Allergies can also have the same result if your bedroom has a lot of dust or mould, for example.
- Lung disorders, including infections: It can be as simple as the flu or a cold, but it could also be something more serious. Inflammation and blockages caused by mucus will make breathing more difficult.
- COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease): If you are suffering from a lung disease like chronic bronchitis or emphysema, you may suffer damage to the air sacs in your lungs, and your breathing tubes may become constricted. This leads to shortness of breath, as well as coughing and wheezing.
Some people find that their shortness of breath is worse at night, especially if they suffer from a sleep condition such as sleep apnoea or specific allergies. The issue can be more difficult to deal with when your body is at rest and you are lying down in a horizontal position.
How To Help Shortness Of Breath At Night
The best course of treatment will vary depending on the condition that is behind it. It is worth noting that there are some home remedies that can make breathing a little easier, such as sitting forward. Try pursed lips breathing (breathing slowly through pursed lips for four seconds and breathing in through your nose for two seconds) and breathing from your diaphragm. These controlled breathing methods can help to soothe that breathless feeling. Try sleeping with your head and knees elevated, too.
There are also lifestyle changes that you can make, which will help with shortness of breath at night. If you are a smoker, quitting cigarettes will definitely help to clear your airways and strengthen your lungs. Managing your body weight is also important, so think about making changes to your diet and getting into an exercise routine.
When To Worry About Shortness Of Breath
Shortness of breath tends to pass, but it can lead to some damaging complications if it is a warning sign of a larger health issue. It can be a sign of:
- Heart failure
- Lung cancer
- Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
If left untreated, these issues can become harder to deal with.
If you have shortness of breath combined with nausea, pain in your jaw, neck, back, or arms, or it feels like there is a weight or something tight in your chest, you should call 999. You may have a problem with your airway or lungs or be having a heart attack.
Treatment For Shortness Of Breath At Night
When it comes to treatment, you should talk to your doctor to find the best path forward. They will run tests to find the underlying conditions that are causing the shortness of breath. Once they have diagnosed the issue, they will tell you what the best treatment will be.
Some of the most commonly used treatments for shortness of breath at night that involve a cardiac condition will involve prescribing you a medication to open up your airways, pulmonary rehabilitation, and recommending CBT counselling.
How We Can Help
Expert Cardiologist offers a range of different heart tests using top-of-the-line equipment to help us to locate the root cause of your shortness of breath. Once we have got to the bottom of it, we will create a personalised cardiac treatment plan for you that will help to manage the systems and improve your quality of life.
If you are suffering from shortness of breath at night or if you have any questions about the treatment that we provide, including heart tests and a healthy heart check, then please do not hesitate. Get in touch with us today to make an appointment.
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