COPD symptoms are experienced throughout the day, however the morning is often the most difficult time for patients. The condition negatively impacts upon their normal daily activities from the minute they wake up in the morning. They find that their morning routine of getting up, showering and getting ready are significantly slowed down due to COPD symptoms. Patients often find that the interference from the symptoms in the morning is a greater challenge than the symptoms themselves.
Symptoms such as breathlessness, wheezing, coughing and phlegm production are all increased usually due to a build-up of mucus overnight and for many it means that more strenuous activities tend to take longer and many find that they have to get up earlier to allow time to complete them. Many patients report that they have had to change their morning routine to compensate, either changing the order in which they do things, allowing more time and rest gaps or changing activities completely.
Some rest in bed for a short period upon waking before even getting out of bed, some also take medication or oxygen at that point also. Many avoid the stairs and some switch from showers to baths as it is less strenuous and you can rest your legs. Also having a breakfast that is quicker to prepare such as fruit and yoghurt helps save time and effort. Grab bars in the shower or along long hallways allow you to have a rest if needed.
Morning headaches are another common complaint from COPD patients, usually those who need night-time therapy or are in more developed stages of the disease. These dull, throbbing headaches are present as soon as they wake up. The cause is either too little oxygen in the blood or too much carbon dioxide in the blood which is a result of the lung damage. Another cause can be too much oxygen in the blood, a result of night-time oxygen therapy. This imbalance of carbon dioxide or oxygen can cause blood vessels to expand as the brain tries to get as much oxygen as possible and causes the headaches. If the headaches are due to night-time therapy then your flow rate can be adjusted to try and stop this from happening. If the headaches are due to general COPD night-time breathing then exercise can help to improve lung function and medications can help to reduce the swelling of the arteries. Some find that a short burst of oxygen in the morning can alleviate them and the right pillow can help to keep the head in the best position for breathing.
Morning symptoms can interfere with a patient’s career, lifestyle and mental well-being. Based on a recent survey, 1 in 4 working patients had to change jobs, 1 in 2 are often late for work or appointments and 2 in 3 had to cut back working hours. So even though your symptoms may only be bad in the morning and alleviate throughout the day, the impact they can have upon your morning routine can alter many major aspects of your life. Therefore it is important to keep in communication with your doctor and to try any of the tips above to try and reduce these symptoms to help improve the patient’s quality of life.