What Causes Nocturnal Asthma?

If you wonder what the connection is between asthma and nighttime, there are several possible explanations.

Some experts believe that natural changes to the body's internal rhythm, which occur over the course of the night, can affect the respiratory system and trigger nocturnal asthma in certain people. In addition, lung function in general seems to decline during the night and this can be enough to set off symptoms for some asthmatics. Further, people who use fast-acting relief inhalers before bed may find that when the medication's effect wears off after five or six hours, they will suddenly have a reoccurrence of symptoms that interrupts their sleep.

In addition, people with sleep apnea, allergies, or reflux disease may be at an increased risk for nocturnal asthma.

Nocturnal Asthma Triggers

Beyond factors that could make someone more prone to nighttime asthma, there are also some general asthma triggers that can prompt an attack, regardless of the time of day or night. These can include:

  • Illness
  • Seasonal allergens
  • Animal dander
  • Chemicals
  • Weather changes
  • Foods
  • Smoke
  • Exercise
  • Emotions

Nocturnal Asthma Symptoms

The symptoms of nighttime asthma are the same as asthma that occurs during the day. For instance, people with nocturnal asthma may experience:

  • Breathlessness
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing

Getting Nocturnal Asthma Under Control

The best way to treat asthma, regardless of when it strikes, is to try to control the airway inflammation that commonly occurs along with it. You can work with your doctor to find the best strategy to accomplish this goal and when possible, prevent an attack from kicking in. He may suggest keeping a journal of your symptoms to help you identify and avoid whatever it is that's making you sick. Long-acting control medication may also make a big difference in preventing and treating your symptoms. Make sure to follow your asthma management plan closely and carefully monitor your symptoms so you'll notice any changes right away.

If your asthma is waking you up more than one or two nights a month, you may need to change your medication or try a different treatment strategy.


Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

National Sleep Foundation