What Causes Breathing Problems at Night?

woman at home with asthma
Share to:

If you often wake up in the morning with a sore throat or feel like you can’t breathe properly, you may be experiencing breathing problems at night. While there are many possible causes for sleep-related breathing issues, understanding some of the most common ones can help you identify what might be causing your symptoms. Here’s an overview of the potential causes of sleep-related breathing problems.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is one of the most common reasons why people experience difficulty breathing during sleep. This happens when the soft tissue in the back of your throat relaxes and blocks your airway. As a result, your breathing pauses momentarily throughout the night, reducing the quality of your sleep and making it difficult to get a full night’s rest.

Obstructive vs. Central Sleep Apnea

There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when your throat muscles relax and block your airway, while central sleep apnea (CSA) happens when your brain fails to signal your body to breathe correctly.

Both types can cause snoring, fatigue, headaches, and difficulty concentrating during the day. It’s important to talk to a doctor if you think you may have either type of sleep apnea so that they can determine which type it is and provide treatment options accordingly.

One of the best courses of treatment for sleep apnea is orthognathic surgery, also known as corrective jaw surgery. This procedure can help reposition the jaw and throat to improve airway obstruction, making it easier for individuals to breathe during sleep. Other treatments may include lifestyle changes such as weight loss or the use of a continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machine, which is designed to keep your airways open throughout the night.

Asthma & Allergies

If you have asthma or allergies, then this could also be causing nighttime breathing problems. Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs and makes it harder for them to absorb oxygen from the air. Allergies can also make it difficult for some people to breathe at night due to inflammation in their respiratory system caused by allergens such as dust mites or pet dander in their sleeping environment.

To reduce these effects, try using hypoallergenic bedding materials or an air purifier in your bedroom so that you can get a good night’s rest without having difficulty breathing due to asthma or allergies.

In addition, if you have asthma, make sure that you are taking your medication as prescribed. This can help reduce the severity of your symptoms and improve your ability to breathe at night.

Lung Disease

Lung diseases such as asthma and COPD can interfere with breathing while sleeping, making it difficult to sleep soundly. Asthma is often treated with an inhaler containing an anti-inflammatory medication which can reduce the severity and frequency of attacks caused by exposure to environmental triggers such as exercise or pet dander.

COPD is also a major cause of respiratory difficulties during sleep, and smoking increases the risk of developing COPD. Treatments for COPD involve medications that open airways and reduce inflammation in the lungs, as well as techniques for breathing more easily during periods of increased respiratory difficulty.


man smoking and drinking

Smoking is one of the major causes of breathing problems during the night. It can even lead to more serious conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea, which is characterized by difficulty breathing while sleeping and may cause snoring, gasping for air, or wakefulness. Not only does smoking cause breathing difficulty directly, it also increases the risk of other conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

These can all lead to respiratory problems at night and interfere with restful sleep. Quitting smoking is critical for improving overall health—reducing the risks of lung cancer and many other diseases—and ensuring better breathing and deeper sleep.


Nighttime can be an especially anxious time of the day due to increased stress levels, erratic sleep patterns, and fear of that what might happen while we are asleep. Anxiety has a huge effect on our ability to breathe well. Anxiety itself causes shallow, labored breaths, which alters our ability to maintain normal breathing and ultimately leads to more difficulty breathing when we lie down.

To make matters worse, the lack of sleep caused by stressful thoughts reverberates through both body and mind resulting in elevated levels of underlying anxiety and potentially increasing our difficulty in breathing at night. Fortunately, there are ways in which individuals can work to reduce nighttime anxiety, including relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises and muscle relaxation methods.

The Bottom Line

No matter what type of breathlessness you experience at night, it’s always best to consult with a physician who can diagnose any underlying conditions that could be causing these issues and provide treatments accordingly. From sleep apnea to asthma or allergies, there are many potential causes for nighttime breathing difficulties—but with proper diagnosis and treatment, these problems can often be managed successfully so that getting enough restful sleep isn’t a struggle anymore!

Share to:
Scroll to Top