Fighting Off COPD Related Fatigue


We all know that life can be exhausting, but when your exhaustion starts to become chronic, and it feeling tired or fatigued starts to affect other aspects of your life, it is time to take action. There are things you can do to fight off the exhaustion, so you can get back to a more energize state of being.


Exhaustion can impact many aspects of your life including your mood, mental health, physical strength and so much more. Feeling exhausted is not the end all be all, there are habits you can form and habits you can break that can help you get back to feeling more like yourself again. 




The first part of fighting off the exhaustion is understanding why you feel this way. If you have chronic respiratory disease like COPD, fatigue is a very common symptom of your disease, but feeling exhausted can also be attributed to other aspects of you habits and daily routine.


Here are some reasons many people find themselves chronically exhausted due to their symptoms:


  • Trouble breathing at night
  • Excess mucus production while sleeping
  • Hypoxemia (low oxygen levels)


However, your fatigue or exhaustion could be attributed to other things unrelated to your respiratory disease.   


  • Lack of exercise 
  • Poor diet 
  • Dehydration

COPD and exhaustion 


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COPD inhibits your lungs from making the proper exchange of gases, therefore  your body can’t get the oxygen it needs. With COPD, you develop low blood oxygen levels, a condition called hypoxemia. You can combat the symptoms associated with hypoxemia, like shortness of breath, by using supplemental oxygen. You can administer oxygen with a portable oxygen concentrator or liquid and gas oxygen tank.


Your doctor will write you a prescription that will tell you the exact amount of oxygen you need. It is important that you follow these instructions. If you do not get the oxygen your body needs you will feel tired because fatigue comes more quickly when your lungs can’t properly inhale and exhale air.


Once you start to feel fatigue from a lack of oxygen, you are less likely to engage in physical activity. By avoiding activity, your stamina starts to decline and you can grow tired more easily, this is the toxic cycle exhaustion can manifest in your life, and it is something that you can it avoid or break out of! To get back to a place where you feel more energized and capable, follow the simple steps laid out in this article.


To combat symptoms of fatigued associated with your COPD you will need to follow these 3 basic steps: 


  1. Ask you doctor if you would benefit from using supplemental oxygen at night
  2. Clear your airways before bed effectively 
  3. Stick to your COPD treatments: Medications, oxygen therapy, diet, and exercise


Supplemental Oxygen 


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Getting the oxygen you need at night can help you sleep more soundly, thereby helping you feel less fatigued during the day. COPD prohibits you from getting the oxygen your body needs, making it more difficult and laboring to breathe, so taking oxygen therapy during the day can help you feel less fatigued as well.


Depending on your condition, you will be prescribed pulse flow oxygen or continuous flow oxygen. Your doctor will tell you if you need to use your oxygen at night, during the day, or both. This will all be included in your prescription, and you should be diligent to follow the prescription as you would with any prescription medication. 



Clearing your Airways 




People with COPD and chronic bronchitis often have issues with producing a large amount of mucus. Once mucus starts to collect in your airways, breathing becomes more difficult, and can even result in an infection. There are a few techniques to remove mucus that are often done after using an inhaled bronchodilator medication. The medication helps loosen the mucus and open the airways to make these techniques even more effective. Common techniques used to help remove mucus can be ordered and demonstrated by your doctor.


Clearing your airways of mucus also can help you sleep more soundly allowing you to breathe more easily and reducing the amount of coughing you experience while you sleep.




There are a number of mucus clearing techniques that you can try that will help you open up your airways.


Deep Coughing: First, take a deep breath. Hold your breath for 2-3 seconds. Forcefully expel your air using your stomach muscles. A deep cough is less tiring and more effective in clearing mucus out of the lungs than merely clearly your throat.


Huff Coughing: Huff coughing, or huffing, is an alternative to deep coughing.. Start by taking a breath that is deeper than a normal breath. Use your stomach muscles to make a series of three rapid exhalations with your airway open, making "ha, ha, ha" sound. Then, perform a series of controlled diaphragmatic breaths followed by a deep cough if you feel mucus moving.


Other Techniques: If you produce a large amount of mucus and huffing nor deep coughing help to clear your airways, your health care provider may recommend other techniques to help clear the mucus.




Your doctor may suggest using a mucus clearing device. There are several types of airway/mucus clearance devices that you can use to remove excess mucus and saliva from your airways. They will come in the form of a mouthpiece, a mask, a vest, etc. and to function they use air pressure, oscillation, or high-frequency sound waves to function.


Postural drainage is a technique that uses gravity to promote drainage of mucus from the lungs.


Any of these airway clearing techniques technique can be ordered and demonstrated by your doctor. Try doing this before bed to sleep without being interrupted by a mucus inducing cough or breathing complications.

Learn Breathing Exercises




One of the reasons COPD patients often feel exhausted, is because they are not getting enough oxygen, yet, you still might not qualify for supplemental oxygen. If this is the case for you, it could be very beneficial to work with a respiratory therapist. These healthcare providers are trained to teach you more efficient ways to breathe, which are often referred to as breathing exercises. 


Breathing exercises like pursed lip breathing can improve fatigue by:


  • Slowing down your respiratory rate
  • Getting rid of the trapped carbon dioxide
  • Relieving shortness of breath


A person can try pursed lip breathing during and after any activity that causes shortness of breath and before bed. To do pursed lip breathing work through these 4 steps: 


  1. Breathe through the nose for around 2 seconds
  2. Purse or pucker the lips, as if blowing out a candle
  3. Slowly breathe out through the pursed lips for 4–6 seconds
  4. Repeat the exercise

Follow your COPD treatment plan and Take your Medication


There no cure for COPD yet, but taking the necessary treatment can help reduce your symptoms, including exhaustion. Managing shortness of breath and making it easier to breathe can help you feel less tired during the day and sleep more soundly at night.


Your doctor has probably prescribed medications to help you breathe easier. Common COPD medications include bronchodilator inhalers, which dilate or widen your airways, steroid inhalers, which reduce inflammation in your lungs, and again supplemental oxygen therapy, which relieves shortness of breath if you have low oxygen levels.


Following your own treatment plan along with a healthy diet and regular physical activity or exercise will help combat that feeling of fatigue and exhaustion. 


A healthy COPD diet will have all of the nutritional foods that you need to feel more energize. It will exclude foods that make you feel overly full or bloated. Dieting does not mean eating less food, it means eating more food that is good for you, and cutting out foods that make you feel bad. It is still not as easy as it sounds, and dieting takes a lot of practice.


Exercising is the last thing people want to do when they feel weak or fatigued, however without physical actively your muscles and endurance will degrade, making any simple task more of a hassle. Start by doing a small amount of exercise every day, you will notice your stamina start to improve and you will feel a little bit stronger and less tired everyday. 


Exercise during the day also promotes a healthier sleep at night, so if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, being more physically active during the day will help. 




Other Reasons you Feel Exhausted 

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of COPD, especially as the disease progresses. Research suggests that about 50 to 70 percent of people with COPD also feel fatigued. Clearly, fatigue often goes hand in hand with COPD, but the reasons for this association are not clear nor does having COPD mean that you will always feel fatigue.




It is important not to chalk up your fatigue to the fact that you have COPD. You can take the necessary action and steps towards a lifestyle where you feel more energized and capable of doing more. 


If you are having trouble sleeping for reasons unrelated to your COPD you can start by:


  1. Getting into a night time routine 
  2. Avoiding caffeine before bed
  3. Limiting exposure to white light
  4. Drinking more water throughout the day
  5. Exercise more regularly 
  6. Eating a balanced diet
  7. Treating other conditions 


Taking action toward these seven steps will help you get on track so that you are sleeping more soundly more often. It is also important to start building up your stamina during the day so you don't feel drained doing everyday activities, you can do this by exercising, eating healthy, and drinking plenty of water. 





As we mentioned above, fatigue is a very common symptom that has been linked to COPD. Excess carbon dioxide, shortness of breath, trouble sleeping, all contribute to feeling exhausted during the day. 


By taking action to address other COPD symptoms you are also helping to combat your fatigue. Using your oxygen therapy as prescribed, keeping up with your COPD medication, and treating your COPD effectively will get you back to feeling energized. 


While it can be hard to break the toxic cycle the fatigue creates, performing physical activities in some form daily will help you build up your stamina so that eventually everyday activities become doable again. Sleeping better at night will also give your body the refresh it needs to feel more energized during the day. 



Sleeping more soundly isn't always easy. Sleeping better all comes down to building healthy habits surrounding your nighttime routine. If you still have trouble sleeping, you should talk to your doctor about your experiences sleeping, they may be able to suggest a remedy that will help you get the sleep you need.


Overall, it is our hope that anyone with COPD can get back to doing what they love. Even in the face of hardship, it is important to stay positive and continue to research ways in which you can improve your wellbeing. It is our goal to get this resource into the hands of people who need it. If you know someone that struggles with COPD and fatigue, please send them this article, and if this helped you in anyway, let us know by commenting below! 


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