Using Oxygen While You Sleep

Everyone breathes differently when they are asleep. When you're sleeping, your body slows down, your breathing becomes shallower, 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.

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. You can check your oxygen saturation level (SpO2) by using a pulse oximeter.

It's easy for your doctor to tell if you need oxygen therapy 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. Should you need supplemental oxygen, your doctor would prescribe the oxygen. The prescription will inform you about the flow rate in liters per minute, type of flow (pulse or continuous), and the time of the day when oxygen is required.

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 bloodstream 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 Alzheimer's.

Oxygen While You Sleep- Is it Sleep Apnea?

Is it Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is different because it is caused by either the throat muscles closing during sleep (known as, Obstructive Sleep Apnea) or from a rarer condition of your lungs not taking a breath periodically (known as, Central Sleep Apnea). A lack of oxygen in the blood due to COPD is from the lack of properly functioning air sacs (known as alveoli) in the lungs. In this condition, some of these air sacs shut down during our sleep, making it even harder to absorb enough oxygen into the bloodstream.

Using Oxygen with Sleep Apnea

If you have already been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) by your doctor, you probably also have a CPAP machine to use at night during sleep. A CPAP machine’s core function is to prevent the collapse of your airway while sleeping using pressurized air. However, CPAP machine’s air contains the normal air with 21% oxygen.

An immediate result of OSA is a persistent lack of oxygen during sleep. If your doctor has determined that your oxygen levels drop too low or too often while you sleep, even while using a CPAP machine, they might also prescribe supplemental oxygen to be used in conjunction with your CPAP machine to keep your oxygen levels normal. This is achieved by "bleeding-in" oxygen into your CPAP system to increase the oxygen level. Through a bleed-in adapter, you can get benefits of both – your CPAP machine and Oxygen Concentrator.

How to get more oxygen naturally:

  1. Open the windows - during the night to let the fresh air in and have better air circulation. During winters open your windows even for a few minutes can do wonders.
  2. Exercise - increases your body's activity and demands more oxygen. This enables the lungs to supply more oxygen throughout the body.
  3. Plants - release oxygen. Areca Palms, Snake Plants, Money Plants, Gerbera Daisies, and Chinese Evergreens are some low-maintenance indoor plants that produce oxygen and absorb toxic air pollutants.

Breathe Easy Stories: Britt Tackling Sleep Apnea

Related Information

Updated: March 16, 2020
Published: September 30, 2013

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

51 thoughts on “Using Oxygen While You Sleep”

  • 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.

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason
      Danielle Jason August 7, 2017 at 1:37 am

      Thank you for your comment, Annika. If you are experience any breathing difficulties it is important to discuss them with your doctor as soon as you are able.

      Reply
  • Desandra

    Does the oxygen makes you take like a hard deep breath

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment, Desandra. Using oxygen therapy will not change the rate or depth of your natural breathing. You should be able to breathe and sleep normally if you are using the correct devices and settings for your individual therapy.

      Reply
  • Priscilla Tautuhi
    Priscilla Tautuhi November 30, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    Thank you so much for your blog. Speaking to my new Dr today about my getting tired regularly every day even after having 4-6 hours sleep she suggested that perhaps I need a machine to help. This is probably what she was referring to. As I suffer with COPD, even walking long distances makes it difficult for me to inhale oxygen and worse still is the humidity in a room I find it difficult to breathe. Thank you once again for you very informative blog.

    Reply
  • susan nabigon

    i just started to use oxygen at night and this is the 4th night and i can't sleep most of the night is this common...

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment, Susan. What would you say is preventing you from sleep? Is it physical discomfort? If so, what specifically is hindering you or making you uncomfortable? Is it the length of cannula, the air pressure, dryness, sound of the machine, etc.? Try to be as specific as possible. We also recommend speaking to your physician regarding your inquiry; any changes in your physical condition or daily routine should be discussed immediately with your doctor.

      Reply
    • Colleen Johnson

      Like the comment above from Susan, I also developed insomnia while using oxygen. It is not the noise, position ,feeling uncomfortable at all. Can oxygen keep you awake at night? I am using 2 L

      Reply
      • Danielle Jason

        Thank you for your comment, Colleen. This question is best discussed with your doctor as how your body reacts to oxygen therapy will differ from others mainly due to your individual medical condition and medical history. You're also welcome to download our comprehensive Oxygen Therapy Guide here: https://www.oxygenconcentratorstore.com/oxygen-therapy-guide/ in which you can learn about how increased oxygen will help the various functions of your body.

        Reply
    • Penni

      I have been on oxygen for 4 nights now and I wake up even more tired then I was before and I am sleeping more. I thought things were going to get better to have any answers for me??

      Reply
      • Danielle Jason

        Without knowing your past and present medical history, location, elevation, current medications, allergies, etc. we can not offer any medical advice. Have you already inquired with your physician regarding your excess exhaustion?

        Reply
  • Pamela K Ables

    I wear oxygen at night cause my # drop to 79 . My ? Is when I take a nap during the day do I need to put it on

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your question, Pamela. Generally speaking, when a patient requires oxygen for sleep they will also need to use it during other forms of sleep including napping. That being said, we urge you to speak to your individual physician directly as they will be able to best advise you how and when to receive your oxygen related therapy based on your individual condition and needs.

      Reply
  • Charles

    Dialysis / cancer survivor patient , recently diagnosed with A-fib , and now I can no longer get a good nights sleep....unless i use the Oxygen during Dialysis that day..then I seem to have a few hours of sleep...but the next day/night ..nothing ...their pushing for c-pap....but I know Oxygen helps and would rather try that first ..hopw can i go about trying it out ..wilst on medicare....TY sincerely Charles

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your question, Charles. This would be a question to ask your doctor as your doctor will be able to offer you the professional medical advice based on your individual medical history and needs. Sleep is a very important part of the bodies recovery system, be sure to bring up each of your concerns and especially any changes to your daily routine with your doctor.

      Reply
  • Jerry blount

    I was wondering how much oxygen is too much? I have been seeing something to the effect of dropping below 90 is bad. How about going above 98 for example? How much is too much? Thanks Jerry

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment, Jerry. The maximum amount of oxygen available to consume would be 100%; that additional 2% increase is extremely difficult, if not currently impossible to achieve with a concentrator as there will always be other trace elements in the air we breathe. If you are concerned you are not getting enough oxygen, we suggest speaking to your doctor.

      Reply
      • Ethan

        Do you just always say speak to your doctor? You know it's terribly expensive to do that. It's why people are asking for general advise on a forum so they don't have to ask their over-priced physician.

        Reply
        • Danielle Jason

          We are not legally allowed to provide any medical advice. Additionally, without knowing past medical history, allergies, location, current medications, etc. it is not safe for us to make any assumptions or suggestions. This is why we suggest speaking with your personal doctor.

          Reply
  • Stephanie

    My Dad, has Bronciesxit has recently been put on a breathing machine while he sleeps, wondering can he travel with this machine or go on a holiday? What would we need to do to help him travel on plane and on holidays?

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment, Stephanie. What is the name of the machine your father has been put on? Is it an Oxygen Concentrator? Feel free to peruse our list of FAA approved concentrators here:https://www.oxygenconcentratorstore.com/reference-material/faa-regulations/.

      Reply
  • i learned a lot
    i learned a lot February 2, 2018 at 8:35 am

    you"re more than my personal dr thanks for all the comments and advices.

    Reply
  • Luisa

    I am someone with very complicated sleep issues. I am desperate and use an oxygen concentrator at levels below 2 L per minute every night. It helps a little. But it’s an important help. Now I am being scared by learning about oxygen radicals from using oxygen every day. Can I be giving myself cancer by using oxygen?

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment, Luisa. Oxygen concentrators work by taking in the ambient air around you, removing some elements, and concentrating the oxygen for delivery. The concentrator itself is not creating or adding any new oxygen that isn't already in the air around you and everyone else; making it as cancer-free as your location's surrounding air. If you have further concerns, we always suggest speaking to your doctor.

      Reply
  • Adriana

    I’m 22 and I am having trouble breathing properly at night I feel like there is a weight on my stomach that comes and goes. I wondering what your thoughts are

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your inquiry, Adriana. We suggest consulting your doctor regarding any changes to your breathing patterns.

      Reply
  • Lupe

    Does oxygen therapy make you sleepy?

    Reply
    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman March 12, 2018 at 8:56 am

      Oxygen in general usually helps you feel more alert. If you, however, are struggling with being sleepy I would suggest that you consult with your doctor to make sure your needs are covered.

      Reply
  • John Gross

    Is lung surgery used to increase oxygen by breathing

    Reply
    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman March 20, 2018 at 3:40 am

      There are many reasons for one to have lung surgery. I would speak to your doctor regarding what the right treatment is for you.

      Reply
  • Suzanne Webster
    Suzanne Webster March 30, 2018 at 7:32 am

    I use oxegan at night and I feel much better during the day. Lots of energy.

    Reply
  • Joanie

    Can using oxygen make your breathing worse after using it? I breathe better if I don't use it.

    Reply
    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman April 10, 2018 at 3:29 am

      Every person and every case is different. If you feel that you do better without oxygen I would recommend having a conversation with your doctor to see if your needs have changed.

      Reply
  • Shirley

    My concentrator quit working while I was asleep, and the alarm failed. I don't know number of hours without oxygen, but when I awoke I had a bad taste and smell in my mouth, and stats were 64 on oxygen. I have been unable to get my oxygen back to normal, and it is almost 2 weeks since it happened. Now am on oxygen 25/7, and did use only at night set on 2. Will I I prove?

    Reply
  • Margaret Goodman
    Margaret Goodman May 16, 2018 at 3:57 am

    Every person and their situation is different. This is something that we recommend you talk to your doctor about as we are not a medical office and do not know your specific situation.

    Reply
  • Keely

    I am curious about if getting more oxygen while I sleep will improve my normal early morning functions. I’m typically at at work one hour after I wake up and I’m actively thinking at work almost constantly. I often work various hours and through circadian low at times. Even though I don’t have sleep apnea I wonder how I can function at an even higher level and would more air / o2 help me at 4am to perform at an even higher level. Obviously I rest I don’t have issues w sleep, I’m not overweight, and don’t have any blood disorders, and have consulted my doctor and got brushed off. But I am considering buying an oxygen machine or auto cpap to test my theory. Any suggestions??

    Reply
    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman August 27, 2018 at 7:46 am

      This is something that you would have to talk to your doctor about. Both oxygen concentrators, as well as CPAP machines, require a prescription in order to purchase one.

      Reply
  • Jerry Stevens

    I have COPD and have been told by my Dr. to use a concentrator at night. I usually have it set for 2% sometimes 2.5%. I have bought a monitor that attaches to my wrist and then connects to my finger. I down load it to my cell phone every day. Its seems that I average 95% 02 each night some nights 98% is this to high?

    Reply
    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman November 12, 2018 at 4:27 am

      Hi Jerry, a good oxygen saturation level is considered 95% or above so you are within good range. You can go to 100% and still be in great shape.

      Reply
  • Carey cannon

    Thank you for your page have learn a lot i personally think you give great advice when you give your thoughs then Recommend a doctor

    Reply
  • Norma

    I need to ask this I had the over night oxygen test done came back saying my oxygen dropped to 82 for like a min or two heart rate went up to 142 then came back down in the 60's was told I did not qualify for at home oxygen what should I do .

    Reply
    • Jeremiah oconnor
      Jeremiah oconnor March 28, 2020 at 1:54 pm

      When is a oxygen concentrator considered bulky? I have limited space but i do not want to detract from the effiency of the unit. What are the better brand names to consider. Finally if I have a choice between a cpap or a oxygen concentrator since I have copd, would one normally be better than the other. I have a 85-87 reading. Do most copd suffers have 2 units, one at home, & one to travel with.

      Reply
      • Sanket Jain

        Oxygen concentrators and CPAP machines serve different purposes. Oxygen concentrators are used by COPD patients to meet their oxygen needs and CPAP machines are used by Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) patients. A doctor determines what unit is needed and at what setting it should work. Patients who require supplemental oxygen during the daytime and want to be mobile, opt for a portable oxygen concentrator. Many of our patients use both a portable unit during the daytime and a stationary unit for nocturnal usage. Our Oxygen Specialists would be happy to understand your requirements and advise the way forward. Please give us a call at 877-644-45814.

        Reply
  • Kim

    I use oxygen only at night. Sometimes, I get invited to an overnight stay at a hotel at the last minute. In order to get oxygen, you have to order 2 weeks in advance. Do I risk it and go without oxygen for one night?

    Reply
    • Ed Rodgers

      That is a question your doctor is qualified to answer. But the option of using an oxygen concentrator may help eliminate the need for oxygen delivery and allow you to do the travel and stays without worrying about tanks. Give us a call at 888-360-9628 where we may be able to help you get an oxygen concentrator for you.

      Reply
  • lynn

    I have 95-97 oxygen during waking hours ..but after an oximetry test my doctor said i need night time oxygen..I have been marathon runner my entire adult life. I DON'T want tone weathered to a machine all night

    Reply
    • Corey Dyben

      Dear Lynn,

      Please contact us at 1-877-644-4581 and we can discuss options to make the transition to nighttime oxygen as easy as possible.

      Sincerely,
      The AMSR Team

      Reply
  • Nickie

    I have asthma and I had three sleep studies in the past. Only the first one I was completly sleep thru while the last two I couldnt sleep more than three hours (the technichian set he mask presure at 5 and refused to turn it down to where I wouldnt immidiatly choke on the forced air). I know that my breathing becomes shallow at night but now that I am a bit older, my asthma inhalers are not helping at hight when I wake up with shortness of breath and a hint of a tight chest issue. I have been wondering if sleeping with an oxygen (even through a nose tube) would be an alternitive to a CPap machine. FYI I tryed a CPap machine but I could NOT deal with it for the reason I fould that the air pressure was far too strong and I could not lower it and since I am one who is unable to sleep on my back at night due to chrocnic back pain and Restless leg Syndrome.

    Reply
    • Scott Ridl

      Sorry to hear about your difficulties with sleeping, it would be best to discuss some of your options over the phone. If you could give us a call at 877-644-4581, we can talk about what would be the best solution for you.

      Reply
  • Linda

    I am brand new to using nite time oxygen. I was told to set my machine at 2. What exactly does that mean? What happens if I set it higher? I haven’t set it any different I’m just wondering what it means. Thank You!

    Reply
    • Sanket Jain

      Good questions, Linda! A setting of machine at '2' depends on whether the machine is a continuous flow or a pulse flow. On a continuous flow oxygen concentrator, it would mean 2 liters of oxygen per minute. Whereas, on a pulse flow oxygen concentrator, it would mean around 420ml of oxygen per minute in regular intervals. The reason the oxygen volume is so different is that the pulse flow device delivers oxygen only when you inhale.
      We never suggest changing your oxygen setting without consulting with your health care provider. Oxygen is a prescribed drug and it should be administered as advised to reach the normal blood saturation level.

      Reply

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