How to Sleep During Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, is a common symptom experienced by many people. Dyspnea can be caused by various reasons such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure or anxiety disorders. The sensation of shortness of breath can cause a great deal of discomfort and stress, which in turn can make it difficult for individuals to fall asleep at night.

If you are experiencing shortness of breath during the night, there are several strategies that you could try to improve your sleep quality and help reduce any distress that may be associated with this symptom.

1. Elevate Your Head

Elevating your head while sleeping can help ease symptoms associated with shortness of breath. By elevating your head using pillows or an adjustable bed frame, gravity helps keep airways open thus allowing easy breathing. It’s important not to raise your head too high otherwise this may lead to neck pain or discomfort.


  • Use enough pillows so that your upper body is raised above the level of your hips.
  • If you have an adjustable bed frame then adjust the angle between 30-45 degrees for optimal relief from shortness of breath.

2. Practice Breathing Techniques

Breathing exercises are often recommended for individuals experiencing dyspnea due to their ability to increase lung capacity and enhance oxygen levels in the body.

Some simple techniques include:

The Pursed-Lip Breathing Technique:

This technique involves inhaling slowly through your nostrils followed by exhaling out slowly through pursed-lips like blowing out candles on a cake.

Diaphragmatic Breathing:

This technique involves breathing using your diaphragm muscles located below the lungs. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, slowly inhale in through your nose and feel your belly fill with air then exhale out slowly through pursed-lips.

3. Use a Humidifier

A humidifier can help relieve symptoms of shortness of breath by adding moisture to dry air which can irritate the respiratory system.


  • Use a room humidifier especially during winter months or when heating systems cause dry air.
  • Clean the humidifier regularly to prevent mold growth which could trigger allergies or worsen asthma symptoms.

4. Avoid Triggers Before Bedtime

It’s important to identify triggers that may exacerbate dyspnea and avoid them before bedtime.

Some common triggers include:

  • Tobacco smoke: Avoid smoking areas or being exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Allergens: Clean bedding regularly as dust mites, pollen or pet dander can trigger allergic reactions leading to shortness of breath.
  • Caffeine: Limit intake of caffeine-containing products such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate etc., especially before bed-time as these are stimulants that increase heart rate thus making it difficult for you to sleep soundly.

5. Seek Medical Advice

If you experience persistent shortness of breath at night despite trying these strategies then it’s advisable to seek medical advice from a qualified healthcare professional who can perform further tests if necessary.


Shortness of breath can be highly uncomfortable but there are several ways that individuals experiencing this symptom at night might find relief. These include elevating your head, practicing breathing techniques such as pursed-lip and diaphragmatic breathing, using a humidifier, avoiding triggers before bedtime and seeking medical advice if symptoms persist. Experimenting with these strategies can not only help improve sleep quality but also promote overall health and wellness.