(Last Updated On: June 27, 2023)

Does Asthma Get Worse at Night?

Research shows that asthma symptoms tend to worsen at night for many people. This is because the body’s natural circadian rhythm, or internal clock, can affect the functioning of the airways. At night, the body produces less cortisol, a hormone that helps to reduce inflammation in the airways. As a result, asthma symptoms may worsen, and breathing may become more difficult.

Work with your healthcare provider to develop an asthma action plan that includes strategies for managing asthma symptoms at night. This may include taking asthma medication at regular intervals, breathing exercises, and identifying and avoiding triggers. Common nighttime asthma triggers include allergens, gastroesophageal reflux disease, obstructive sleep apnea, mucus production, and circadian rhythm changes.

Father helping son with Asthma at night in bed


Exposure to allergens such as pet dander can worsen asthma symptoms, especially at night. Pet dander is made up of tiny flakes of skin that pets shed, and it can be carried in the air and settle on surfaces around the home.

When a person with asthma breathes in pet dander, their immune system reacts by releasing chemicals that cause inflammation and narrowing of the airways. This can lead to symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. In some people, exposure to pet dander can even trigger a severe asthma attack.

If you have asthma and a pet, here are some tips for minimizing your exposure to pet dander:

  • Keep your pet out of the bedroom.
  • Vacuum and dust surfaces frequently. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to ensure you’re not simply stirring up allergens into the air.
  • Regularly bathe your pet.
  • Use an air purifier with a HEPA filter and change the filter regularly.
  • Take allergy medication.

By taking steps to minimize your exposure to pet dander, you can reduce the likelihood of experiencing nighttime asthma symptoms. If you’re struggling to manage your symptoms, speak with your doctor about developing an asthma action plan that works for you.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition that affects millions of people. It occurs when the muscle at the end of the esophagus fails to close properly, allowing acid and stomach contents to flow back up into the esophagus. This can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms, including heartburn, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, and regurgitation.

While occasional acid reflux is common and generally harmless, chronic GERD can have serious consequences if left untreated. Over time, the constant exposure to stomach acid can lead to erosion of the esophagus and even esophageal cancer.

There are several factors that can contribute to GERD, including an unhealthy diet, smoking, obesity, and pregnancy. Certain medical conditions, such as a hiatal hernia or scleroderma, can also increase your risk of developing GERD.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to manage your symptoms and reduce your risk of complications:

  • Avoid spicy or acidic foods.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals to reduce the pressure on your stomach.
  • If you’re overweight, losing weight can help reduce your symptoms.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Elevate the head of your bed.
  • Take over-the-counter antacids or prescription medication.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of GERD, seek medical attention to get the help you need to manage your symptoms and reduce your risk of complications.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder characterized by repeated episodes of partial or complete obstruction of the upper airway during sleep, leading to disruptions in breathing and decreased oxygen levels.

The most common symptom of OSA is loud and persistent snoring, often accompanied by pauses in breathing or gasping for air. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to over a minute and can occur multiple times per hour throughout the night.

In addition to snoring and breathing disruptions, OSA can cause daytime sleepiness, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. If left untreated, it can lead to more serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

OSA is more common in people who are overweight or obese, and those with a family history of the disorder. Other risk factors include smoking, alcohol consumption, and certain medical conditions such as hypothyroidism and acromegaly.

Diagnosis of OSA typically involves a sleep study, also known as a polysomnogram, which monitors various bodily functions during sleep. Treatment options may include lifestyle changes such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol before bedtime, as well as using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to keep the airway open during sleep.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from OSA, seek medical attention. With proper diagnosis and treatment, you can manage the condition and improve your quality of life.

Mucus Production

Mucus is a slippery substance that is secreted from mucous membranes that line the nasal passages, throat, and lungs. It serves multiple functions, including trapping dust, dirt, and other foreign particles that enter our airways. This helps to keep our airways clean and protects our lungs from harmful substances.

However, excessive mucus production can be a cause for concern, particularly in people with respiratory illnesses like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In these conditions, inflammation of the airways can lead to an overproduction of mucus, making it difficult to breathe.

Excess mucus production can also be a symptom of other underlying medical conditions such as sinusitis or allergies. In these instances, mucus production is often accompanied by other symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Seek medical advice if you experience any of these symptoms.

There are several ways to manage excess mucus production. Non-medical options include staying hydrated, using a humidifier in dry environments, and avoiding irritants such as smoke or strong smells. Medical treatments may include decongestants or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and loosen mucus. In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed to clear up any underlying infections.

Circadian Rhythm Changes

Circadian rhythm refers to the 24-hour cycle that controls various physiological processes in the body, including sleep-wake cycles, hormone production, metabolism, and body temperature regulation. Changes in this cycle can impact our health and well-being.

One of the most common circadian rhythm changes occurs due to shift work. People who work night shifts often struggle to maintain a consistent sleep-wake cycle, leading to insomnia, fatigue, and mood disorders.

Modern lifestyle habits like late-night screen time, irregular mealtimes, and lack of physical activity can also disrupt the circadian rhythm and cause health issues like poor sleep quality, weight gain, and decreased brain function. In addition to these lifestyle factors, some medical conditions can impact circadian rhythm, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy.

To maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, follow a routine sleep-wake cycle and expose yourself to natural light during the day. Reduce screen time and avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime. Engage in regular exercise, maintain a healthy diet, and practice relaxation techniques to reduce stress.

How Air Purifiers Can Help Nighttime Asthma Symptoms

Air purifiers filter the air in a room, removing irritants and allergens that can trigger asthma symptoms. A study conducted by the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology found that using an air purifier in the bedroom led to a significant reduction in asthma symptoms among study participants.

Air purifiers work by drawing air into the unit and passing it through a series of filters. These filters remove particles from the air, including dust, pet dander, and pollen. Some air purifiers also use activated carbon filters to remove odors and chemicals from the air.

When selecting an air purifier for nocturnal asthma, look for one that has a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. HEPA filters are designed to capture particles as small as .3 microns, making them highly effective at removing allergens and irritants from the air.


Managing nighttime asthma symptoms requires personalized and proactive care. Asthma patients should carefully monitor their symptoms and triggers and work with their healthcare providers to develop an individualized treatment plan that includes medication and lifestyle modifications.

While air purifiers can be helpful in reducing exposure to airborne irritants and allergens, they are not a cure for asthma. Rather, they are a complementary tool that can enhance overall respiratory health and reduce the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms. By taking steps to manage their condition, people with asthma can reduce nocturnal asthma symptoms and improve their quality of life.

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