Albuterol, Asthma, and an Inability to Sleep

I was diagnosed with asthma last fall, at age 36. It was a direct result of having the RSV virus, and permanent damage to my lungs. It was a shock, something I honestly never expected, and in many ways, it has been harder and scarier to manage than any of the other chronic conditions I live with.

It's also impacted them all, in one way or another.

One necessary evil

After initial diagnosis, my asthma was decently controlled for a few months. In February of this year, I began struggling with more persistent coughing, wheezing, tightness of chest, pain in my lungs, and an inability to catch my breath.

Using one routine inhaler twice a day stopped being sufficient to manage this, so all sorts of tests were run and all sorts of medications were tried - some which helped a little, others which didn't seem to make any difference.

One necessary evil: albuterol.

Albuterol's effects on me

Just like my forced on-again, off-again relationship with prednisone, using an albuterol inhaler and albuterol solution in my nebulizer has changed a lot of things for me.

The albuterol makes me a little shaky. Sometimes it increases my heart rate a lot, which felt scary at first. Now I know to expect it. But it also makes me more alert, it makes my brain run a little faster, I tend to think and talk faster, and overall, feel kind of "amped up" after use.

Now, there are times in my day that I can use those side effects to my advantage. But, there are times in my day in which they are a complete detriment.

The issue

Because I was waking up having such intense coughing fits from my asthma that I couldn't catch my breath, my pulmonologist recommended that I use my nebulizer just before bed.

Well, albuterol is one of 2 solutions that go into my nebulizer. The other, budesonide, is a steroid, very similar to prednisone. So, together, these 2 medications make me mentally ready to run a marathon, write a novel, or clean my house.

They don't, in fact, do anything to promote or allow sleep. The other night is a perfect example of how frustrating this has become.

Trying to settle down to sleep

After 2 days of decently controlled asthma and no need to nebulize at bedtime, I had a day filled with intense coughing, and I knew I needed to support my airways or could have a scary night ahead of me. I used my nebulizer with both albuterol and budesonide, and then instead of getting right into bed, I went back downstairs and did all the dishes. I threw in a load of laundry, and I washed all of my inhalers and the parts to my nebulizer.

About an hour later, thinking I had outsmarted the medication and my brain, I got into bed. I watched an episode of television, and then tried to settle into my bedtime routine around 11pm.

A double edged sword

At 3:30 am, I was still awake, staring at the clock, wondering what my next move should be. I had tossed and turned, tried to give it time, tried to listen to meditations, tried to doze off - nothing.

What a double edged sword. Have sleep continually disrupted by intense coughing fits, or have sleep unattainable by medically managing those coughing fits. What would you do?

Are you managing other conditions in addition to insomnia? Share more in this forum!

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.