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COPD and Exercise

Those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) know how hard exercising might be as their energy may be limited. However, exercise can help improve the quality of life of COPD patients which is why they should try to be as physically active as possible. To learn more, continue reading below.

How is Exercise Beneficial for COPD Patients?

Exercise in general and especially exercise that works the lungs and heart can be extremely beneficial for those with COPD. Namely, such exercise can do the following:

  • Improve the way the body uses oxygen
  • Relieve symptoms and improve breathing
  • Make the heart stronger
  • Reduce blood pressure and boost circulation
  • Boost energy levels
  • Improve sleep
  • Help keep a healthy weight
  • Boost mental and emotional outlook
  • Decrease social isolation
  • Strengthen bones

Top 4 Exercises for COPD Patients

  1. Stretching Exercises

According to experts, stretching exercises should be part of any workout program, including a COPD exercise program. Such exercises will increase your flexibility and balance and help prevent joint stiffness. Just remember that when doing stretches, you should move slowly and smoothly while breathing out gently through pursed lips during the effort phase of the exercise.

  1. Aerobic Exercises

In short, aerobic exercises involve large muscle groups moving at a steady and rhythmic pace. This exercise will work both your heart and lungs and improve their endurance. It will help your body to utilize oxygen better, and over time, will improve your breathing as well. Two great examples of aerobic exercises for COPD patients are walking or using a stationary bike.

  1. Strengthening Exercises

When doing these exercises, one should tighten their muscles until they start to tire. And, performing strengthening exercises for the upper body will help boost the strength of your breathing muscles and thus, with time, improve breathing.

  1. Breathing Exercises

Last but not least, as the name itself suggests, breathing exercises will help COPD patients strengthen their breathing muscles. In turn, they will get more oxygen and breathe with less effort. Pursed-lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing are two great examples of such exercises for COPD patients. For best results, do these three to four times a day, up to 5 to 10 minutes.

  • Pursed-lip breathing

To do pursed-lip breathing you should relax your shoulder and neck muscles. Then, inhale for 2 seconds through your nose while keeping the mouth closed. Finally, exhale for 4 seconds through pursed lips.

  • Diaphragmatic breathing

Start by lying on your back with your knees bent, one hand on your stomach below your rib cage, and the other hand on your chest. Next, breathe in deeply through your nose for 3 seconds, tighten your stomach muscles, and breathe out for 6 seconds through slightly puckered lips.

Exercise Precautions for COPD Patients

When exercising with COPD, it is always a good idea to be careful although shortness of breath doesn’t always mean that you should quit exercising, but that you should probably exercise at a slower pace or a lower level. Here are some exercise precautions COPD patients should be aware of:

  • Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine.
  • If your medications change, consult your doctor before continuing your exercise program.
  • Ensure you don’t exercise for at least 90 minutes after eating.
  • Avoid both hot and cold showers after completing your exercise program.

A Closer Look at Sleep Inertia

Sleep inertia or sleep drunkenness is one of the most common symptoms of idiopathic hypersomnia. Namely, according to research, one-third of idiopathic hypersomnia patients have sleep inertia. It is characterized by having trouble waking up from sleep, and when eventually you do, you feel extremely groggy and disoriented. This can last for as little as half an hour or as long as a couple of hours.

Sleep Inertia Causes

Even though experts haven’t clearly defined the causes of this condition, they still have some theories. The first one is that sleep inertia occurs as a result of the body making too much of a small molecule in the clear liquid that protects the brain and spinal cord, called cerebrospinal fluid. This small molecule interacts with GABA and other brain chemicals to create an effect similar to the one of a sleeping pill.

Furthermore, other theories claim that idiopathic hypersomnia is an autoimmune condition, meaning that it occurs when the immune system attacks the body by mistake rather than an invading germ. And, being brought on by a viral illness, is yet another possible theory of what causes idiopathic hypersomnia and sleep inertia.

Sleep Inertia Symptoms

So, what’s it like to experience sleep inertia? We’ve already mentioned that you find it hard to wake up and once you do you feel groggy and disoriented. However, sleep inertia also makes it hard to focus on your daily, normal activities, which can lead to issues such as:

  • Slower thinking and reaction time
  • Poor coordination and short-term memory
  • Moodiness or irritability

Managing Sleep Inertia

If you suspect you may have sleep inertia, you’d rather make an appointment with your doctor and discuss everything you’re concerned about including your symptoms and how they affect your everyday life.

Luckily, there are several things you can do at home to help you wake up faster from sleep inertia, i.e. manage its symptoms. These include:

  • Drinking a cup of coffee – research has found that 100 milligrams of caffeine can help you wake up more quickly from sleep inertia.
  • Follow a strict sleep schedule – although you may find it hard sometimes, waking up and going to bed at the same time every they can relieve sleep inertia symptoms.
  • Increase exposure to light – sunlight is key to suppressing the sleep hormone called melatonin which means that it helps you wake up.
  • Do a short high-intensity exercise – a study suggests that sleep inertia patients feel less sleepy if they do 30 seconds of intense exercise after waking up.
  • Avoid taking naps – naps can indeed lead to severe sleep inertia, so you’d better try to stave off the urge by doing physical activity, for example.

Sleep Inertia Treatment

Finally, let’s see how sleep inertia is treated. Namely, there aren’t any FDA-approved medicines specifically for sleep inertia. However, some of the treatments approved for idiopathic hypersomnia can also help you relieve this symptom. These may include:

  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin) and methylphenidate (Ritalin) – a combination of these two helped relieve severe sleep inertia, according to a small study.
  • Melatonin – if taken at bedtime, it helps control the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
  • Sodium oxybate (Xyrem, Xywav) – this drug interacts with GABA, a brain chemical, to help you stay alert. Research suggests it relieves severe sleep inertia in around 70% of idiopathic hypersomnia patients.

Unveiling the Root Causes of Sleep Problems

In general, most people experience some sleep problems from time to time. But, although it’s quite normal not to be able to get the adequate sleep you need occasionally, facing sleep-related issues regularly can lead to more severe health conditions.

That said, if you are having trouble getting enough sleep on a regular basis, it’s time you take action and try to solve the issue. The first step toward improving your sleep is determining the cause of your sleepless nights. So, let’s begin and explore the common root causes of sleep problems.

What Causes Sleep Problems?

Various factors can cause sleep issues. And, regardless of the cause, the final result of experiencing sleep problems is pretty much the same – a disrupted or exaggerated circadian rhythm. In short, factors contributing to the development of sleep problems and disorders include:

  • Medical issues (such as sleep disorders like sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome)
  • Physical disturbances (such as chronic arthritis pain, fibromyalgia, headaches, etc.)
  • Psychiatric disorders (such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc.)
  • Environmental issues (such as too bright, too hot, or too loud sleep environment)

Furthermore, a major life change or a stressful event can lead to developing short-term, also known as acute, insomnia. Triggers of acute insomnia might be a job loss or change, moving house or city, illness, death of a family member, etc. With short-term insomnia, symptoms resolve on their own after some time.

On the other hand, long-term, also known as chronic, insomnia can be caused by chronic stress, pain, or depression. To be diagnosed with chronic insomnia, you have to face sleep issues for at least three nights a week for at least three months. And, unfortunately, symptoms don’t go away without professional medical help.

Yet, other factors can also contribute to experiencing sleep problems, including:

  • Genetics – According to research, genetics play a role in developing narcolepsy which is a neurological disorder of sleep regulation. A person suffering from narcolepsy isn’t able to control sleep and wakefulness.
  • Night shift work – As night shift workers cannot sleep when they naturally feel drowsy and their schedules run contrary to their internal body clock, they often tend to develop sleep disorders.
  • Certain medications – Some medications can significantly affect and disturb sleep. For example, some antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, and over-the-counter cold medicine can lead to sleep problems
  • Aging –Sleep disorders are pretty common among the elderly population. Indeed, around 50% of those over the age of 65 have some sleep problems or disorders. So basically, sleep problems are a normal part of aging, or perhaps caused by the medications that older people often use.

How to Get Better Sleep?

The most important thing when trying to get a good night’s sleep is following good sleep habits, also called sleep hygiene. Here are some tips that might help you get the sleep you need:

  • Follow a strict sleep schedule – in other words, go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including on the weekends.
  • Ensure your bedroom is sleep-friendly – this means that your sleep environment should be quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Avoid screens before bedtime – limiting screen time before sleep reduces your exposure to blue light which increases alertness and wakefulness.
  • Mind your menu – you should avoid large and heavy meals close to bedtime, as well as caffeine and alcohol for at least a couple of hours before you go to sleep.
  • Practice regular exercise – regular physical activity during the day will help you doze off more easily at night.