According to the Journal of Respiratory Care, due to the effects of sleep on your breathing, it’s normal for oxygen levels to decrease below normal awake levels when you sleep at night. While you’re sleeping, you’re not breathing as deeply, and the lung spaces aren’t all functioning at full capacity.
If your oxygen levels drop too low regularly, it puts you at risk for serious health problems or even sudden death, which is why it’s essential to learn more about the benefits of sleeping with oxygen and how to know when an oxygen mask for sleeping is the right option for your needs.
What are the Symptoms of Low Oxygen at Night?
Normal oxygen levels while you’re awake range between 95-100%. However, your levels do naturally drop while you’re sleeping. Normal oxygen saturation levels while sleeping usually fall between 90-100%, and if levels fall below 88% during sleep, you may need supplemental oxygen for sleeping.
Just a few of the symptoms you may experience if your oxygen levels drop too much at night include:
- Rapid breathing
- Waking up with a headache
- Fast heart rate
- Bluish tint to nail beds, earlobes, and/or lips
- Elevated blood pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Waking up gasping for air
- Snoring during sleep
- A decrease in daytime alertness
- Daytime drowsiness
- Waking up coughing or choking
- Poor memory
- Extreme fatigue, weakness, and lack of energy
Who Should Sleep with Oxygen?
Certain health problems can make you more prone to low oxygen levels, or hypoxemia. According to the Mayo Clinic, common causes of hypoxemia may include:
- Interstitial lung disease
- Sleep Apnea
- Congenital heart disease
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Certain medications
Individuals with these conditions may need to sleep with oxygen. In general, anyone whose blood oxygen levels drop below 88% may need supplemental oxygen. If you have Sleep Apnea and your levels continue to fall at night with CPAP treatment, you may want to consider using CPAP with oxygen. Keep in mind, it’s always wise to discuss oxygen use with your physician.
How to Increase Oxygen Levels While Sleeping
If your blood oxygen levels are dropping too low at night, you can take measures to increase oxygen levels while sleeping.
- Exercise Regularly – Exercise helps stimulate your respiratory system and improves its ability to function. You’re also able to increase lung capacity with exercise, and this helps improve oxygen saturation, even while sleeping.
- Try Sleeping on Your Side – When you lay on your back, the weight of your body may press down on the lungs and airways, increasing the chance of obstructions. Side sleeping prevents this problem and may reduce issues with snoring, too.
- Skip the Alcohol Near Bedtime – If you drink alcohol before bed, it can cause your throat to relax more, increasing problems with Sleep Apnea. Over-relaxed muscles make your airways more likely to collapse. Avoid drinking alcohol within four hours of sleep time to improve breathing and oxygen levels at night.
- Supplemental Oxygen – One of the most effective ways to increase oxygen levels at night is to use oxygen for sleeping. Oxygen therapy is an excellent treatment option for many conditions that cause hypoxemia, such as Sleep Apnea, COPD, and lung disease.
What are the Side Effects of Using Oxygen?
Oxygen therapy is very safe and effective if used correctly. However, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are a few side effects that may occur, including:
- Nasal Dryness and Skin Irritation – Oxygen therapy can dry the nasal passages, and nasal dryness, skin breakdown, and skin irritation are relatively common. However, this issue can be addressed with a moisturizing product to soothe and lubricate your nasal passages.
- Oxygen Toxicity – When using high concentrations of oxygen for an extended period of time, oxygen toxicity can occur. This is why it’s so important to talk to your physician about the recommended dose since it’s always essential to use the lowest effective dose possible.
- Suppression of Your Breathing – In some patients, using oxygen therapy has suppressed the drive to breathe. This is rare, and once again it’s essential to avoid adjusting oxygen doses without consulting with a physician.
- Fire Hazard of Oxygen – Oxygen supports combustion, and it can be a fire hazard. When using any type of oxygen, never use it near open heat sources, and don’t allow anyone to smoke while oxygen is in use.
What are the Benefits of Sleeping with Oxygen?
If your oxygen levels are falling at night, then supplemental oxygen therapy may be right for you. Just a few of the benefits of sleeping with oxygen include:
- Benefit #1 – Improvement in Sleep – One of the main advantages of using supplemental oxygen is a better night of sleep. Falling oxygen levels can disrupt your sleep, and most people see an improvement in sleep quality when they begin using oxygen.
- Benefit #2 – Improved Mood – According to the American Lung Association, oxygen therapy may improve mood, performance, and cognition, which means you’ll actually feel better.
- Benefit #3 – Increased Stamina During the Day – Low oxygen levels and lack of sleep can leave you fatigued during the day. Once you supplement with oxygen, you may find that you enjoy an increase in stamina.
- Benefit #4 – Reduced Risk of Health Problems Caused by Hypoxemia – Low blood oxygen levels put you at risk for serious health problems, such as arrhythmias, heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, and even premature death. Improving oxygen levels with supplemental oxygen can reduce your risk for these health issues.
CPAP Machine vs Oxygen Concentrator
Many people don’t think they need oxygen therapy because they’re already using a CPAP machine. However, a CPAP machine, while it does offer continuous airway pressure, does not provide you with oxygen. When you look more closely at a CPAP machine vs oxygen concentrator, you’ll find that they do very different things. For many individuals with Sleep Apnea, the use of a CPAP machine is enough to increase blood oxygen content. Supplemental oxygen is generally only required if you have a respiratory condition along with Sleep Apnea.
The benefits of oxygen concentrator are many, so if you’ve been prescribed oxygen therapy by a physician, we can help you with your search for the best portable oxygen concentrators. For more useful news and information about oxygen therapy, CPAP, and Sleep Apnea, and to get great savings on equipment, subscribe to our newsletter today.
David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.