Asthma Gets Worse At Night- Causes and Top 10 Natural Remedies

Asthma Gets Worse At Night?--Causes and Top 10 Natural Remedies

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December 12, 2012
By ALISON TURNER, Featured Columnist

Most of us know someone with asthma, and this is probably because an estimated 300 million people in the world suffer from asthma.

What some of us might not know is that up to 75% of these asthma cases may be getting worse at night.   Nocturnal asthma, the nighttime worsening of asthma, manifests in symptoms such as awakenings, cough, and wheezes during the night.  

Nocturnal asthma might not be just an annoyance - it could seriously affect a patient's quality of life by increasing morbidity  and asthma-related mortality.   People with asthma may suffer nocturnal asthma for a number of reasons, ranging from the environment in which they sleep, to other conditions going on in their body.

Check out the list below for recent studies by some of the world's leading experts in the field, to find out reasons why you might be experiencing nocturnal asthma, as well as what you can do about it.

1.  Nocturnal Asthma --- It's Something to Lose Sleep Over

We've all heard by now how important it is for kids to get enough sleep every night.  But sometimes even if we take all the right steps (bedtime stories, no caffeine, lights out, etc), our kids have problems sleeping the whole night through.  Recent research suggests that your child's sleepless night could be stemming from nocturnal asthma.

In 2011, Maria Fagnano of the Department of Pediatrics and the Strong Children's Research Center at the University of Rochester in New York, led a team  in studying the relationship between the "burden of sleep difficulties" and children with asthma.

A total of  287 children (and their parents) participated in the study, which included answering questionnaires and reporting symptoms.  41% of these children showed "intermittent nocturnal asthma symptoms," 23% showed mild symptoms, and 36% showed moderate to severe symptoms.  This population also showed "pervasive sleep disturbances," children with nocturnal asthma showed worse sleep scores, and reportedly had "fewer nights with enough sleep."

The above data can be helpful to us from both ends: if we don't know why our child isn't sleeping well, we can consider nocturnal asthma as a possibility - and if we know our child has nocturnal asthma, we should take the condition seriously, as it could be breaking up the night more than we thought.

2. GERD Increases Your Risk of Nocturnal Asthma

You might know gastroesophageal reflux by its more user-friendly name of heartburn that does not go away (that is, chronic heartburn).  The condition is also known as GERD, and occurs when food or liquid in the stomach travels backwards from the stomach into the esophagus.  Risk factors for GERD include alcohol, smoking, obesity, pregnancy , and, according to research from Brazil, nocturnal asthma.

In 2009, researchers from various departments at the Clinical Hospital in Porto Alegre, Brazil, including Lucas Dalle Molle with the Respiratory Disease Unit  conducted a study to determine the prevalence of children experiencing both persistent asthma and nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux (GER). 

Gathering data from thirty-eight patients with "persistent asthma" for at least two years, the team found that over 47% of these patients experienced heartburn, which was "equally distributed in the supine (nocturnal) and upright positions."

Being aware of the possible connection between heartburn and nocturnal asthma could help us to lower our risks, treat, or alleviate symptoms for either condition - ask your doctor for details!

3. Heating Your Home May Be Worth the Cost: Temperature Affects Nocturnal Asthma.

It's true that many of us have turned into pansies in terms of comfort: when it's cold outside we turn the heat way up - whatever happened to a good 'ole sweater?  However, research from New Zealand suggests that adequate, clean heating of the home not only eases discomfort from the cold, but may also help us to treat symptoms of nocturnal asthma.

In 2009, a team led by Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman with the Housing and Health Research Programme at the University of Otago in Wellington, New Zealand  responded to the possibility that the way we heat our homes may influence our asthma. 

They report that New Zealand homes are "underheated by international standards," and that this low heating affects many health conditions that may result in school absence for children with asthma. 

They conducted a heating intervention (that is, they installed a more effective heater) in 409 households containing asthmatic children between 6 and 12 years old.  Results showed that children in households with the intervention experienced an average of 21% fewer days of absence from school.  The team concludes that "more effective, non-indoor polluting heating reduces school absence for asthmatic children."

While that unbelievable heating bill may seem senseless in the short run, it's possible that over time the cost pays off: you could be keeping your kid in school, and protecting them from more serious symptoms of nocturnal asthma.

4. Nocturnal Asthma: Depressing, Indeed

We've all experienced how at least one night of poor sleep can make us feel "off" all day: imagine our state of mind if nocturnal asthma ruined our sleep on a regular basis. 

Experts in Germany have found evidence that there is a connection between asthma, depression, and even panic disorder.

In 2008, Antonius Schneider with the Department of General Practice and Health Services Research at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, along with other scientists in Germany,  assessed how depression and panic disorder impacted 256 primary care patients with asthma. 

Data revealed that 3.9% of these asthmatic patients suffered from major depressive order, nearly 23% of them from minor depressive disorder, and nearly 8% from panic disorder. 

The team determined that these numbers are "substantial," so that it might be "helpful to identify patients with psychiatric comorbidity," as psychiatric interventions might help to reduce adverse outcomes in asthmatic patients.

Taking care of our bodies is a full time job, and when we add the burden of mental health to the picture the task may seem overwhelming.  However, the situation may feel more manageable in knowing that seeking treatment for asthma may decrease our risk for depression.

5. Nocturnal Asthma and Obesity: Unpleasant Bedfellows

As we discover more and more reasons why obesity is bad for our health, more and more people become affected by the condition.  Research from Northern Europe suggests that nocturnal asthma may be another item to add to the list of health disadvantages from obesity.

In 2004, a large team of researchers in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, including M.I. Gunnbj÷rnsdˇttir, with the Department of Medical Sciences at Uppsala University in the first,  investigated how obesity (defined as a body mass index (BMI) of thirty or higher) acts as a risk factor for the onset of asthma in the more than 16,000 participants of the study. 

Numbers showed that "reported onset of asthma, wheeze and night-time symptoms" increased in prevalence along with the increase in body mass index.  The team concludes that their work "adds evidence to an independent relationship" between obesity and the onset of asthma in adults.

It seems that for some of us, what we do with our bodies during the day may impact the much needed rest our body gets at night.

6.  Nocturnal Asthma: Worsened by Fungus?

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