When nocturnal asthma symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath disturb your sleep, you can find yourself feeling tired and unable to focus the next day.

Possible Causes

According to the experts, the odds of your asthma kicking in at night can be extremely high. And while there are different possible explanations to explain why asthma seems to be worse at night, some doctors blame nocturnal asthma symptoms on the fact that airways can narrow while you are asleep and allow more mucus to build up inside. Further, when you are lying down, factors such as sinus drainage and/or acid reflux can trigger your airways to have a bronchial spasm, as can breathing in cooler nighttime air. Other possible reasons for nocturnal asthma or night asthma symptoms can include hormonal changes, changes in breathing while you sleep and increased exposure to allergens in your bedroom setting.[i]

The Increased Risk that Exists

Regardless of what triggers your nocturnal asthma, it is important to know that while the symptoms are likely the same as what you might experience during an asthma attack that occurs during the daylight hours, the risks seem to be magnified with night asthma. As a matter of fact, many asthma-related deaths seem to occur in the nighttime, making it crucial to try to head off a night asthma attack, or at least, be ready to respond to night asthma at the very first sign.[ii]

Treating Night Asthma

While you can't cure nocturnal asthma, there are things you can do to try to keep it under control. Having an asthma action plan to manage the symptoms and respond when you find them getting worse should be an essential part of your overall strategy. 

Many people with nocturnal asthma also take asthma control medications such as inhaled steroids on a daily basis and monitor their breathing patterns with a peak flow meter, which is a tool that measures breathing capacity and can alert you to any changes right away. When needed, using your fast-acting relief inhaler can also help off a night asthma attack. Finally, allergy-proofing your sleeping environment and preventing acid reflux symptoms can also be effective ways to minimize the risk of night asthma from setting in.[iii] When you do experience serious symptoms, however, and they don't respond to treatment at home, always be sure to seek medical attention right away.


[i] http://www.medicinenet.com/asthma_complexities/page2.htm

[ii] http://www.webmd.com/asthma/guide/nocturnal-asthma-nighttime-asthma?page=2

[iii] http://www.nationaljewish.org/healthinfo/conditions/asthma/types/nocturnal-asthma.aspx