Nocturnal Asthma

What is Nocturnal Asthma?


Asthma is a very common problem which causes the narrowing of the airways in the lungs or the production of too much mucus which causes inflammation and irritation. It can also occur due to any kind of swelling or spasms in the lungs which causes restricted opening of the airways in the lungs. 

The symptoms of asthma can be seen most commonly at night as compared to the days. It is accompanied by breathlessness and wheezing with a very suffocated chest and dry cough. 

Asthmatics can also have obstructive sleep apnea which is when they have a blockage of the airways and have difficulty breathing. 

Asthmatics experience ‘nocturnal asthma’ when their symptoms worsen at night and may cause disruption in sleep.


The asthma symptoms which are clinically manifested in the individuals during the night time leading to shortness of breath and tightness in the chest because of the inflammation of the airways of the lungs are said to be as nocturnal asthma.

The symptoms of nocturnal asthma are shortness of breath, wheezing, dry cough and tightness in the chest. 

Moreover, it leads to excessive sleepiness during the daytime or lack of concentration among children and adults both during day time. It also leads to asthma attacks often during the day among the patients. 


There are various causes of Nocturnal asthma some of them are discussed here such as changes in lung functions during the night which causes relaxation of the lung muscle leading to the narrowing of upper airways thus often causing various lung-related or breathing issues and coughing episodes in people during the night. 

Other reasons are sleeping positions in which various sleep postures lead to difficulty in breathing such as sleeping on your side or on your front which constricts the airways of the lungs. This makes asthma worse during the night thus sleeping postures are a very important factor to be considered. 

Another common reasons for nocturnal asthma are air conditioners which condition the air and make it cooler.

 Cooler air has a bad impact on the lungs if there is any possibility of asthma in the individual as they are dry and with no moisture leading to asthma attacks as the hot air of the lung faces the conditioned cool air of the surrounding. 

Risk factors

There are various risk factors related to nocturnal asthma some of them are discussed here such as allergic rhinitis. Whosoever suffers from this disease is at high risk of nocturnal asthma. The reason behind it is due to the collection of mucus while sleeping into the throat leading to blockage of the airways. 

Also, smocking is said to be another risk factor where people who are chain smokers are said to be in the risk group for Asthma. 

Obstructive sleep apnea is another risk factor in which it is seen that the throat muscle relaxes while sleeping leading to obstruction in the pathway of the airways. 

Managing Nocturnal Asthma

So managing nocturnal asthma is not to difficult.

Keeping your room free of allergens can be one of the many steps.

 Having cleaned sheets or pillows which do not has house dust mites or keeping your pets away from your sleeping room can be helpful. 

Having a good quality air purifier also works well for purifying the air in the room and thus leading to fresh breathable air. 

Also treating any related medical conditions which can act as a trigger factor for nocturnal asthma such as sinusitis or allergic rhinitis, obstructive sleep apnoea etc can work wonders in dealing with the root causes of asthma.

 Keeping your reliever inhaler and water with yourself or near within your space which is reachable to you is also a good step as you are prepared for any future coughing fit. 

Next comes the various breathing exercises which can help in alleviating the symptoms of asthma in the individual, especially during the night when coughing fits are very common. 

Meeting your general practitioner regularly for keeping up to date with the status of asthma is also necessary as they can check if the condition is improving or worsening with time and can consider some different medications viable for the issue.

 Following the basic treatment plan according to your GP in which there can be different medications according to the severity of the disease can also help individuals case by case in dealing with this.

 Also managing nocturnal asthma since has holistic approaches as well so nevertheless having a healthy and balanced diet with nutritious food can help in preventing the severity of asthma also quitting smoking can cause wonders. 

Medications for Nocturnal Asthma

If we talk about the various medications present which are helpful in such cases of asthma then preventer inhalers which have steroids in them can help in suppressing the coughing fits and flare-ups during the night. Other inhalers which are reliever inhalers are also in the market and are used for opening up the airways for relieving the symptoms of asthma and are based on salbutamol composition and are meant to be good as well. Inhalers which are a combination of both are present too for the patients to have a mixed approach in the treatment or prevention of asthma. 

Nocturnal Asthma and Sleep disturbances

Nocturnal asthma causes a lot of disturbance in the life of the individual and thus needs to be well managed to have a good quality of sleep and thus followed by a good day ahead. 

What is the best sleeping position if you have asthma?

It has been reported that for people with nocturnal asthma the best sleeping position is the supine position in which you lie on your back relaxes the whole body parts and very less constricts the lungs which can lead to obstruction in breathing. 

If someone needs a good night's sleep consider adding up some extra pillows near your legs and that will give you a good time sleeping without any coughing episodes. 

Tips for a better night’s sleep

When should I contact my doctor?

No wonder people can get asthma attacks during the night anytime or due to any triggering factor which can worsen the condition of the individual so never hesitate to meet your GP and get a consultation or full checkup is done for the overall review of the status of asthma. Such conditions can only be managed with good living standards and some medications which need proper monitoring from a specialized doctor or physician.


Most asthma symptoms are experienced in the night and so referred as nocturnal asthma. The reported causes of nocturnal asthma include exposure to allergens, cooling of airways, and being a reclining position for a long time.

 Nocturnal asthma can be managed by keeping your room clean and allergy-free, medications, sleeping in a good position and by ensuring that you follow healthy habits for a good night’s sleep.

This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Dr. Chanchal Singh

Masters in Public Health in Global Health, Queen's University Belfast
She is a Dentist and a public health professional. She loves writing medical content to diminish the ignorance around several issues regarding humans and healthcare.

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