Help me sleep

I don't have regular allergies but once a year or every other year I get hit with a severe allergy episode.  I just joined and thought I would post as I bet many of you probably have some tricks that are game changers that help you get through tough times. 

I don't know if it is just my body getting run down and then the trigger hits (as it only is like once a year) but I get bad asthma for about 3-4 weeks with sinus pressure and drainage for 2 weeks.  For about 2-3 weeks I am pretty much in the red zone all the time with my asthma.  The cortisteriod inhaler and albterol do nothing.  Trying to sleep is pointless, I have been averaging about 2-3 hours of sleep over the past 5 days.  Really the only way I can fall asleep is with a menthol cough drop in my mouth sitting up on the couch but I will just wake up with a chest exacerbation once it has dissolved.  I've gotten predisone shots which seemed to help for about 24 hours but the tablets do nothing.

I am supposed to go for skin testing in a week which I did 10 years ago but its a joke, yea yea yea dust mites, cats, and dogs (thats really causing me to not be able to breathe for 3 weeks??!!).




Comments 25

  • K8sMom2002

    Hi, JT … welcome, and I'm sorry you're having troubles sleeping! I hear you on not being able to sleep when you can't breathe and you wake up coughing and gasping for air. 

    Nighttime is really hard when I have an asthma flare. Are you taking prednisone now? Or any sort of new medication? Some meds can screw up your sleep as well — I still remember a cough syrup that my pediatrician prescribed for my DD when she was a toddler … it had her bouncing off the walls. I called him back and he said very sheepishly, "Uh, yeah, for most kids, it puts them out like a light, but for a few it has the opposite effect."

    Lucky me, no? 

    I would definitely talk to your doctor about this and see what tricks he has up his sleeve. There may be some adjustments in your meds that can help.

    Tricks that I use to help me sleep in the middle of a flare is:

    • drink plenty of fluids during the day (as advised by my doctor)
    • take meds as advised by my doctor
    • absolutely fresh clean sheets … this is a treat my DH or DD will do for me when I'm in the middle of an asthma flare
    • use Vicks Vapo Rub on my chest — it lasts longer than a cough drop. 
    • sometimes a humidifier would help — sometimes not.
    • cool air at night — not too cool, but not too warm. 
    • raised pillows under my head — sometimes you can even put a wedge between your mattress and the box springs at the head of the bed.
    • An antihistamine or decongestant depending on the time of day — I can't take decongestants close to bed time because they will mess up my sleep, but if I take one about three hours before, it lasts long enough to help me get to sleep. Ditto on some antihistamines, although my doc has me switch off from antihistamines to decongestants if I have a sinus infection.

    And I'm glad you're getting checked out for environmental triggers. If you tend to get an infection the same time every year (like I did), you can ask your doctor these questions:

    • Could it be an allergy to whatever is blooming? And can I begin pre-treating with an antihistamine before whatever this is blooms out? (Birch and maple are my worst offenders! — check out to see what's blooming in your neck of the woods.)
    • Can we tweak my action plan with a sick plan so that I can hopefully head off a flare?
    • Can I try antihistamines year round if it's dust mites or pet dander?

    Hope you get some rest!

  • jt

    Thanks for the reply.

    I forgot about the vapor rub, I will definitely pick some up tomorrow.  Right now I am sleeping on the couch, it is easier to keep me up at about a 70 degree angle not that it is comfortable but it is only worse the lower I go.  That and don't want to wake the Mrs and baby every 5 minutes of coughing after my exacerbation wakes up the neighbors.

    I've been on singulair but its just hard to take medication when you don't need it after 300-400 days.  I will just circle a month out from this date next year and start taking it then maybe.

    Dr just gave me a zpack to go with the prednisone, zrytec (D), singulair, airduo, albuterol.  Hopefully something will give me relief in the next couple of days.

    My lung test was in the 70% range which appears to be mild looking on the internet.  3 chest exacerbations in the middle of the night doesn't seem mild to me.  ooh well

  • jt

    Forgot to add flonase to my list.  I can't take the psudeoephedrine for more than a couple days in a row as it just doesn't make me feel good.  Just don't understand how antihistamines don't make any difference after taking them for 2 weeks. 

  • K8sMom2002

    It's a miserable feeling when you can't breathe and you can't sleep. I've retired to the sofa as well during my flares … for some reason, you're right, that angle helps. 

    And mild is all relative. If you're used to NOT battling asthma and then suddenly the rug gets pulled out from under you, it's hard. 

    Did you get some sleep after all?

    A few other things that I forgot to recommend: 

    • Ask your doctor about getting the — my doctor recommended them for me after my last bout with pneumonia. When I researched , I found this:
      • Each year in the United States, pneumococcal disease causes thousands of infections, such as meningitis, bloodstream infections, pneumonia, and ear infections.

    • Don't forget about the flu shot, too!
    • Remember that around May, can peak — this is not the flu, but it can cause a severe upper respiratory infection that I call "The Crud." There's no vaccine for them, but I make it a point now to not let up on hand washing and good infection control strategies. 
    • Distraction … and a cool glass of water
      • When I'm having a flare, I keep an insulated bottle of water by my bedside (I like the CoolGear cans that look like a soft drink can). Sometimes if I wake up coughing, a sip or two of water can help.
      • Also I use podcasts on my iPhone to lull me to sleep — I can't concentrate as much on being miserable when I've got an interesting podcast droning in my ear. I set my sleep timer to cut the phone off. It really helps!
  • Kathy P

    Hugs and welcome jt. Not sleeping just seems to make things worse.

    I thought I was the only one who slept with cough drops in my mouth! I'm sure my dentist would be horrified to know I had a sugar blob stuck up in my cheek!  I only do it when my allergies are bad and I have that little tickle that starts as I lay down and drift off to sleep. 

    When I had my last bout like that, the ENT prescribed a cough suppressant. I can't take codeine and OTC don't help much. But the Rx med really helps and last all night! Being able to get sleep is important. 

    I sleep propped up too. And I keep water by the bed that I will sip if I wake up coughing. 

    Is it the cough that keeps you awake or the not being able to breathe? Hope the zpack helps. 

  • jt

    Its coughing to clear my airways, which seems like every 10-30 seconds.  So I would have to sit straight up and just wait till I was so exhausted that I could fall asleep but then just wake up 2 hours later with a coughing spasm.  I think i'm finally making some head way with my either the antihistamines or other prescriptions from my doctor (after 2-2 1/2 weeks).  I still have my asthma symptoms during the day but i've been able to fall sleep easier the last two nights and even lay my head down once i've woken up in the middle of the night (definitely not something i could do over the past 2 weeks).  When I have this allergic/asthma episode I definitely keep water and cough drops right next to me, when I spasm or have a chest exacerbation sometimes the only thing that will calm me down is sloooowly sipping water continually for about 2-3 minutes.  For whatever reason if i'm eating or constantly drinking water I don't have asthma(?) or have to cough.  

    Just did chest xrays though I don't know what i'll get from that.  Usually my sinus symptoms last about 2 weeks and the asthma hangs around alittle more mildly for another 2 weeks.  

    Can't wait until I can talk normally not grasping for air or afraid of coughing in someones face again.

  • K8sMom2002

    Oh, my gracious, that sounds exactly like when I have a really bad flare. I hope the x-rays will provide your doctor with some added info. 

    One thing that triggers mine is post nasal drip — Sometimes I'm not even aware of it, but it does really stir things up. I didn't even realize what was happening until my doctor took a look at the back of my throat. I wasn't even "that" congested. 

    I'm glad you're feeling a bit better — and I hear you on looking forward to not feeling like you're going to blast someone in the face. 

    One thing that helped me was to keep a . That's when I realized that I would have asthma flares at pretty much predictable times … forewarned is forearmed!

  • Shea

    You could see if you could get a nebulizer to keep at home… I don't know if you have had breathing treatments using a nebulizer before, but there are times for me when inhalers do not work well, but nebbing clears me up. I use ipatroprium bromide-albuterol (helps open my airways and budesonide (which is an inhaled steroid and kicks out the inflammation). When I can breathe, I sleep so much better, but I also am prescribed a mild muscle relaxer that helps me get go sleep. Oh and weekly washing bedsheets, pillows, and encasements in hot water makes a big difference to me.

  • jt

    Yea I have a lil Nemo neb here that we use with my toddler, hes been using it as you said with pulmicort(sp?) and I'll steal it and use the albuterol. Unfortunately not much of difference, when i did my breathing tests at the Drs, he said the albuterol they gave me is 4x stronger than the albuterol inhaler and i only gained about 5% in testing following the treatment.

  • Jen

    Hi JT,

    Welcome to our asthma support forums.  Not being able to sleep is frustrating, for sure.  I've been there with the post nasal drip and tickle in the throat making it difficult to sleep.  Besides talking to the doctor about possible med adjustments, I think k8smom's idea about finding ways to make yourself sleepy (so you can at least get a couple hours) is a good idea.  Besides podcasts, there are some other things that may help.  We have discussed .  There are some good ideas in that thread.

  • K8sMom2002

    @jt, how goes the breathing and the sleeping? I hope you've turned a corner and you're no longer on the couch!

  • Kathy P

    Hope you are continuing to do better. Since this seems to be a seasonal issue, has the doc recommended starting allergy meds before the season starts to try to keep the bad flare from starting? My daughter and I both have"seasonal" plans from the doc that include increasing our preventative inhaler and adding more allergy meds before the bad pollen seasons start. 

  • Shea

    JT, what is the mg of pulmicort you use in the breathing treatment? With pulmicort… my doctors stressed that it has to be used two times a day to work to knock out the inflammation… I personally have had a hard time doing that because sometimes I do not feel bad enough so it seems like I am doing it for no reason, but when i consistently use it two times a day, at what my doctor prescribed to me, (which is much higher than a toddler dose), THAT is when my breathing gets better so I can sleep through the night. I am mu h better at making sure i do not put it off now, I do a neb while making my bed in the morning, and another while watching a tv show nightly (with the captions on while the neb is on). Today I am doing mine late, because its been a weird morning and I havent felt that bad where I like neeeeeeed it, but I am going to do it anyways!!!, because I am on a mission to taper lower on my prednisone! ( I also put a vile of ipatroprium-bromide-albuterol in my inhaler)… the pulmicort helps knock out inflammation, but the ipat-albuterol mix really opens up my lungs. I swear these things have helped… I actually have dreams now and not just ones where I am having an asthma attack and wake up having an asthma attack. Like dreams with sea turtles and cool things. I hope you are able to get some good sleep soon!

  • K8sMom2002

    Shea, good tips as always, and I'm so glad that sea turtles are the subject of your dreams and not asthma attacks!

  • K8sMom2002

    JT, how's your sleep? I hope your lungs are behaving!

    Shea, how about your dreams? I'm hoping you still have dreams of turtles and not asthma attacks!

  • jt

    I started doing a lot better at about the 2-3 week mark.  I started switch hitting Allegra in the morning and Zyrtec in the evenings, with the two inhalers and flonase.  Either the Allegra made an immediate difference or it just took the 2-3 weeks for the antihistamines to start to make a difference.  While I felt about 80% better I have back tracked slightly over the past week.  Don't know if its all the rain every day or just me being out playing golf and a motorcycle ride.  Still not sure I understand the benefit of Singulair, been taking it for about 2 months now, maybe it is only effective for more severe asthma(?).   In the past my bouts usually lasted about 6 weeks so this may be more normal than I tend to remember.  

    Hoping to be 100% soon so I can get back to being a normal person and enjoying the outdoors everyday.

  • K8sMom2002

    JT, glad you're doing better — on the golf and the motorcycle riding!

    But, still, that's a bummer on the back-tracking. I definitely noticed that two-steps-forward, one-step-back when I was getting over my May 2016 bout with pneumonia. It was like my lungs needed extra time to get back to baseline — and in fact, that was what my doctor told me, to be patient with myself. She also gave me a pre-treat plan, so that I could pre-treat known triggers and reduce my risk of an asthma attack.

    If you're concerned that you're not seeing any good response with the Singulair, can you talk with your doctors about what they were hoping to see in the way of a response?

  • K8sMom2002

    @jt, are you back to where you were before your flare? Hoping the summer has been kind to you and you've been able to bounce back!

  • Jen

    I recently got a FitBit and have been using it most nights to track my sleep. I usually charge it a couple nights per week, so don't track on those nights.  It is no wonder I am often so tired.  Even if I am in bed 7-8 hours, there are plenty of nights when I'm up to use the bathroom and lots of restless moments too.  It ends up that I'm generally not hitting the 8 hour mark and sometimes not even the 7 hour mark.  I think I need to counteract the waking/restless moments with going to bed earlier.  Now that the kids are all back in school,  I need to figure out how to tweak my evening routine to make that happen.

  • RedCoog

    I know it's no medication per say , but has anyone tried taking camomile tee at night? I usually drink a decaf green tee during the day and it helps relax my throats and even clears my sinus some times! 

  • K8sMom2002

    I've not tried chamomile tea, but when I'm particularly stuffy, I like peppermint tea. And when I'm coughing up a storm and my throat is tickling and scratching, a spoonful of honey seems to soothe it. I've run all these by my doctor, and she says that it won't interfere with my meds and if it works for me, go for it. 

    So it's a good idea to check with your doctor about what experiment you may want to try!

  • Jen

    With the kids back in school, I am definitely not hitting the 7 hour mark for sleep most nights.  I might get 7 hours on the clock, but with awake/restless minutes, it's not 7 hours of good sleep.  There have been a few nights I manage to get myself to bed a little earlier so that I do hit the 7 hour mark. I suppose I need to keep some informal notes of what I did those evenings to try to get to bed earlier.