The Overlapping Struggles: COPD and Sleep Disorders

 The Overlapping Struggles: COPD and Sleep Disorders

Blog written by: Dhrithi Bhat

A common respiratory disorder that affects millions of people worldwide is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is distinguished by a continuous obstruction of airflow, which causes symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Although the effects of COPD on daily living are widely documented, its link to sleep difficulties is frequently overlooked. We will explore the connection between COPD and sleep disturbances in this blog article, illuminating the difficulties that COPD sufferers encounter while trying to get some shut-eye at night.

Understanding COPD:

Prior to examining the link between COPD and sleep disturbances, it is critical to have a fundamental understanding of COPD. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the two primary disorders that makeup COPD. Inflammation of the airways, which results in increased mucus production and ongoing coughing, is a hallmark of chronic bronchitis. By destroying lung tissue, emphysema, on the other hand, prevents oxygen from reaching the bloodstream. Both illnesses contribute to impaired lung function, which results in shortness of breath and limited capacity for physical exercise.

COPD and Sleep Quality:

  • Sleep-Disordered Breathing: Sleep-disordered breathing, which refers to a variety of aberrant breathing patterns while you're asleep, is frequently caused by COPD. A frequent type of sleep-disordered breathing called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by recurring episodes of partial or total airway collapse. Due to conditions like airway inflammation, increased mucus production, and weakened lung function, people with COPD are more likely to develop OSA. OSA can result in irregular sleeping patterns, nocturnal hypoxemia (low oxygen levels), and repeated awakenings.
  • Insomnia: The symptoms of COPD, such as coughing, wheezing, and dyspnea, can make it hard for some people to get to sleep or stay asleep. As a result, insomnia could develop, making it harder to operate cognitively during the day and lowering one's quality of life. Discomfort brought on by dyspnea, pharmaceutical side effects, and psychological distress linked to the condition are all factors that contribute to sleeplessness in COPD patients.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS): The neurological condition known as restless leg syndrome is described by an uncontrollable impulse to move the legs, which is frequently accompanied by unpleasant feelings. According to studies, people with COPD had a higher prevalence of RLS than people without the condition. RLS can impair the initiation and maintenance of sleep, thus impairing the quality of sleep for COPD patients.
  • Consequences of Poor Sleep: A vicious cycle is produced by the interaction of sleep problems and COPD. Sleep issues can make COPD symptoms worse, resulting in more weariness during the day, poorer cognitive function, and a lower quality of life. Poor sleep can further restrict physical activity and aggravate respiratory symptoms, worsening the status of people with COPD as a whole.

Management Strategies:

Recognizing the impact of sleep disorders on COPD patients' well-being, a comprehensive approach to managing both conditions is crucial. Here are some strategies:

Medical Interventions:

By reducing symptoms and boosting lung function, COPD treatment—which may include bronchodilators, anti-inflammatory drugs, and oxygen therapy—aims to enhance sleep quality. Additionally, CPAP therapy, particularly for OSA, is useful in addressing sleep-breathing disorders.

Lifestyle Modifications:

  • Regular physical activity can improve lung function and reduce sleep disturbances.
  • Avoiding respiratory irritants such as smoke, allergens, and pollutants can help alleviate COPD symptoms.
  • Adopting good sleep hygiene practices, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and avoiding bedtime stimulants can improve sleep quality.
  • Psychological Support: COPD patients may experience anxiety, depression, and emotional distress due to the challenges they face. Seeking support from mental health professionals or participating in support groups can provide coping strategies and improve overall well-being.


COPD and sleep disorders often go hand in hand, creating a complex interplay that affects individuals' physical and mental well-being. Recognizing and addressing sleep disturbances in COPD patients is crucial for improving their quality of life. By implementing medical interventions, lifestyle modifications, and psychological support, healthcare professionals can empower COPD patients to achieve better sleep, enhanced respiratory function, and an improved overall outlook on life.


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