Breathing Problems at Night Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

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Breathing problems occur when you feel that you are not able to oxygenate your lungs. The difficulty of breath is called dyspnea in medical terms. There are a variety of causes of breathing problems at night and the diseases affecting your lungs and heart are more prone to cause breathing difficulties. Other conditions that may be associated with it are and stress, anxiety, allergy, asthma, and sleep apnea which occurs when the patient sleeps. A sudden attack of breathing difficulties at night may be harmful to patients and it needs to be treated as soon as possible.

Causes of Breathing Problems at Night

Lung Conditions

  • Asthma

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Asthma occurs due to inflammation occurring inside your lungs and it occurs as a result of hypersensitivity of lungs to environmental factors like pollen and dust. It may also be caused by Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) COPD- There are a variety of lung conditions that causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and they cause difficulty in breathing at night, cough, chest tightness and wheezing.

  • Pneumonia

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Pneumonia is a lung condition which occurs as a result of infection of the result of infection of lung tissue and the patient experience tiredness, fever, and cough.

  • Pulmonary hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension occurs when the arteries supplying the heart condition have high blood pressure in them and it causes breathing problems at night.

  • Pulmonary embolism

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Pulmonary embolism is also one of the condition which causes difficulty in breathing and chest tightness.

Heart Conditions

There are varieties of heart conditions like

  • coronary artery disease
  • angina pectoris
  • ischemic heart disease
  • left heart failure
  • Myocarditis
  • Myopathies

which causes breathing problems at night. Whenever you suffer an attack of angina you may feel chest tightness, chest pain, nausea, fatigue, pain in limbs, and Jaws. The patient may suffer shortness of breath as he is not able to pump blood at a reasonable level.


Other causes of breathing problems at night time are anxiety and panic attacks and the problems are solved when the attack is resolved. Sleep apnea is a condition that occurs due to the narrowing of every channel and it prevents you to get proper sleep at night.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms?

The shortness of breath at night can be really serious and may indicate a serious condition. You may suffer sleeping problems and many of the patients who have such problems like to sleep while sitting posture as lying down flat increase their breathing difficulties.

Baby Breathing Problems and there Causes

The Other signs and symptoms which are experienced by the patient are:

  • the blueness of fingers and lips
  • pale complexion
  • swelling of feet
  • swelling of lower back
  • high pitched sound when he is breathing
  • wheezing
  • chest tightness
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • flu like symptoms

As soon as you suffer from any of the symptoms you need to seek medical help as soon as possible.

How to Diagnose Breathing Problems at Night?

As soon as you suffer breathing difficulties you should reach your health care provider. Your physician will perform a physical examination of yours and take a brief history which may include few questions like

  • From how long are you suffering from breathing problems?
  • Does the change of position has any impact on your breathing?
  • Do you have a family history of shortness of breath?
  • Are you allergic to pollen, exercise, or tobacco smoking?
  • Are the symptoms mild, moderate, or severe?
  • What treatment do you take when you suffer shortness of breath at night?
    For how long the attack last?
  • How many times does it happen per week?

After performing your general physical examination and taking a brief history, he will ask you to get your tests done to rule out your cause of breathing difficulty and the test may include:

  • Complete blood count
  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiogram
  • Chest radiography
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Spirometry
  • Sleep studies
  • Testing of stress
  • Helical chest X-ray
  • CT scan
  • Split night polysomnography
  • Cephalometric radiography

How Can You Treat Your Condition?

The treatment of shortness of breath depends upon the cause which is causing the breathing problems at night.

heart failure:

Your doctor will advise you to undergo Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, maintaining ideal BMI, eating more fiber, and fewer carbohydrates, eating a diet that contains less amount of cholesterol. He will prescribe you the medications to treat your heart condition like beta-blockers, Calcium channel blockers, blood thinners, diuretics like furosemide, or spironolactone m to treat your heart conditions.


Whenever the breathing difficulty is due to asthma, your doctor will advise you to stay away from the triggering factors. Sleep by popping up the pillows and it will help to open up the airway channels and will stop the attacks at night. He may recommend you to take inhaler whenever you suffer an attack.


Your health care provider will ask you to get an inhaler and oxygen therapy to treat your COPD. You may need to quit smoking and adhere to the treatment plan given by your health care provider.


You may need to take antibiotics, antipyretics, analgesics, and cough treatment medications. You may need a rest of 5 to 7 days to treat your medical condition.
Anxiety and panic attacks:

Breathing problems at night
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For treating anxiety and panic attacks, your doctor may ask you to take care of your mental health and will give you medications like is citalopram, benzodiazepines, advise you breathing exercises, and ask you to avoid the Trigger factors.
Positional therapy

You need to sleep on the side to prevent sleep apnea. The rubber ball can be fixed to the back of the shirt so as to prevent adopting a spine position while you are asleep.

When to Seek Medical Help?

Whenever you suffer breathing problems at night associated with fever, productive cough, blueness of nails, wheezing, chest tightness, swelling at feet or swelling at the lower back, immediately consult your health care provider. Tell him in detail about all your features and he after assessing you will give you some medications to treat your condition. It is advised you adhere to medical therapy to help yourself preventing such attacks in the future.

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