Most healthy individuals tend to wake up each morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, however, COPD patients are not always fans of waking up. It’s well understood that symptoms related to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease are typically experienced throughout the day. For several COPD patients, the morning tends to be the most difficult part of their daily routines. While every COPD case is unique, there are a few common reasons why COPD patients struggle with morning routines and a few simple tips they, and their caregivers can activate to make things easier during the early AM hours.
Understanding the Challenges of Waking Up with COPD
A survey completed in 2013 by Kantar Health, and sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals among 811 COPD patients reported that normal activities that many of us take for granted, can take as much as 15-minutes per task to complete. 49-percent of all COPD patients surveyed claimed that they must change or amend their morning routines due to their symptoms. In fact, of the 439 patients who stated that their morning ritual was impacted due to COPD symptoms, 33-percent indicated that they avoid setting an appointment or personal chores during AM hours.
The study concluded that, in addition to taking medicines, patients often develop coping strategies like changing their daily schedules to attempt to limit the effects of COPD symptoms in the morning on their everyday lives. Simple things like physically getting out of bed, walking to the restroom or downstairs are more difficult when your ability to breathe in or out is restricted.
Now that we understand the challenges, why is the morning specifically more difficult for COPD patients?
First – It’s Hard to Get a Good Night Sleep with COPD
According to The Sleep Foundation, for people with COPD, symptoms such as coughing, chest pain, and frequent nighttime urination may profoundly impact sleep. In addition, medications used to treat COPD may cause insomnia or daytime sleepiness. Simply having to wake up and take prescriptions on schedule may also disturb sleep.
Overlap syndrome is a term used for patients with both COPD and OSA. Overlap syndrome, which research suggests occurs in 10-15% of COPD patients, is associated with a reduction of blood oxygen levels during sleep, which may cause extreme fatigue and other health problems.
Second – It’s Hard to Get Up with COPD
A common side-effect of COPD is weight gain since physical activity can significantly be restricted due to COPD and many medications have side-effects that include weight gain. As we gain weight, muscle strength within our abdomen core can also reduce. When you combine the lack of strength along with the extra weight around the mid-section, the act of pulling yourself up from a prone or flat position can be extremely difficult. Add the inability to breathe in-or-out, and this task is amplified.
So – How Can COPD Patients Improve Morning Activities?
The simple answer to this question is – It Depends. But honestly, this is the truth. Every COPD case is unique, as is each COPD patients’ symptoms, treatment plan and the medication or therapy they are prescribed. Our advice is to always work with your primary care physician or a pulmonary rehab coach to create a morning action plan that is best suited to your individual situation and progression. However, there are a few general tips that all COPD patients and their caregivers can activate to help make waking up a bit easier.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Find something that helps you to relax, whether it’s music or reading, find something that helps you relax and complete it daily – regardless of your location.
- Maintain a regular sleep and wake schedule. As difficult as it might be, set a ‘bedtime’ and ‘wake time’ for every day.
- Establish a cool, dark and comfortable sleeping area.
- Use your bed for sleep and sex, but not for other stimulating activities. Watching TV in bed might seem relaxing, but it stimulates our brains, which makes sleeping more difficult.
- Avoid caffeine intake as much as possible.
- Develop an exercise plan that you can activate in the morning hours
- Improve your indoor air quality by having your HVAC system filters replaced every two months. It is also a good idea for COPD patients to consider indoor air quality improvement systems, as this can significantly reduce exacerbations.
- Take naps as needed, but not within six-hours of your scheduled sleep time.
- Join respiratory rehab programs
The most important thing for any COPD patient to remember is to ask for help. Waking up with COPD is much easier when there is a caregiver at home that can help you with daily activities. Whether it’s helping you get up in the morning, motivating you to stick to your sleep and wake schedule or simply for support, don’t be afraid to ask for help.