Using Oxygen While You Sleep

Everyone breathes differently when they are asleep. When you're sleeping, your body slows down, your breathing becomes more shallow, and you take in less air in each breath. This can be dangerous for people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or other lung conditions. Many people with breathing problems prop themselves up with pillows while they sleep to avoid having trouble breathing, but propping yourself up with pillows won't help this problem.

It's easy for your doctor to tell if you need oxygen therapy while you sleep. If your blood oxygen level is above 94% while you're awake, you might not need oxygen therapy during the day. If your blood oxygen level is below 94% during the day, you may need oxygen therapy for a while during the day, as well as all night long while you sleep. If he or she suspects that your blood oxygen level is dropping below the normal zone during the night, they may have you monitored overnight to get a reading.

How to tell if you're not getting enough oxygen at night:

There are a few signs to watch out for to see if you're not getting enough oxygen while you're sleeping. If you are experiencing any of these signs by themselves or in combination, don't ignore them. Not getting enough oxygen while you sleep for any length of time is dangerous.

You get plenty of sleep at night, the eight hours or so that you need each night (give or take a few hours, depending on the individual), but you still feel exhausted in the morning or throughout the day. Having a lack of oxygen in your blood stream puts a strain on your heart and your brain, and the rest of your body has to work harder to make up for the lack of oxygen.

Aside from feeling more tired during the day, you will notice you can't think as clearly. Simple tasks can seem extremely hard and complicated to someone whose brain isn't receiving adequate oxygen. You can also experience regular headaches and become very irritable and moody for any small reason. You would also experience memory loss and the ability to concentrate that could be mistaken for the onset of Alzheimers.

Is it sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is different because it is caused by either the throat muscles closing during sleep (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) or from a more rare condition of your lungs not taking a breath periodically (Central Sleep Apnea). A lack of oxygen in the blood due to COPD is from the lack of properly functioning air sacks in the lungs. When we sleep, some of theses air sacks, known as alveoli, shut down, making it even harder to absorb enough oxygen into the blood stream. This is when using oxygen therapy during the night becomes necessary.

  • Annika Larson

    As I've gotten older, I have noticed that it is harder to breathe at night. I am wondering if this would constitute the need of getting an oxygen concentrator. Like you said, not getting enough oxygen at night can cause you to not be able to think as clearly. I will have to talk to my doctor about getting an oxygen concentrator.