Getting Used to Wearing Oxygen at Night

Kim Fredrickson avatar

by Kim Fredrickson |

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All pulmonary fibrosis patients require supplemental oxygen as our disease progresses. As scarring in our lungs worsens, we need extra oxygen to stay alive.

Starting using oxygen

I was shocked when my doctor told me that I needed to use supplemental oxygen, which involves rolling a tank around with me. I said that I was 57 years old and not willing to push around an oxygen tank as if I were 80. He was surprised at my response and said I could carry a portable oxygen concentrator around in a backpack. I said, “OK, I am willing to do that.” It took me several months to feel comfortable carrying oxygen with me.

At first, I only used oxygen when I was moving around. Then I needed to use it at night when I was sleeping and eventually I was using it 24/7. Each time my oxygen needs increased, I grieved and argued with my doctor. I didn’t want to accept reality.

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Using oxygen at night

I was particularly upset when I realized that I needed to wear oxygen when I slept. I thought it would make my sleeping difficulties worse.

It took a little time to get used to; at first, I worried about whether sleeping on my side would cut off the oxygen — but it didn’t. The emotional adjustment was more difficult for me than the physical. A wonderful outcome of wearing oxygen at night was that my quality of sleep improved significantly.

Low oxygen can contribute to sleep problems

Many patients with pulmonary fibrosis have problems sleeping, which increases fatigue and affects quality of life. It can be hard for us to fall and stay asleep. Sleep deprivation contributes to increased fatigue and a lower quality of life. Sleep problems originate from a variety of problems, one of which is reduced oxygen saturation.

PF patients are particularly vulnerable during the rapid eye movement, or REM, part of the sleep cycle. REM sleep is the most rejuvenating part of the cycle, but it poses a problem for PF patients. During REM sleep, the diaphragm controls breathing, while the smaller accessory muscles are temporarily not functional.

Those without a lung disease aren’t affected when this happens, but it is problematic for PF patients. Our blood oxygen levels may fall and cause us to wake up, disrupting our REM sleep. During REM sleep we dream, consolidate our memories, allow our bodies to recover and prepare for the next day. Not getting enough REM sleep can also affect how well our immune system functions.

Ask your doctor about whether you could benefit from an overnight oximetry study to check your oxygen levels while you sleep. Using oxygen at night may help you to sleep better and improve how you feel in the morning.

It really helped me

As my oxygen needs increased, I noticed that I was breathing through my mouth, rather than my cannula, which meant I wasn’t getting the oxygen I needed. I talked to my doctor about using an oxygen mask at night. He explained that if you are using 6 liters per minute (lpm) or more of supplemental oxygen you can wear a closed oxygen mask at night or during the day to improve your breathing. The use of an oxygen mask requires a prescription from your doctor. I started using a mask when needed 6 lpm and was becoming congested at night. Patients can also wear a vent or OxyMask when using between 1 to 15 lpm — I recommend checking with your doctor first.

My sleep quality has improved, and I’m feeling better since using supplemental oxygen at night and wearing a mask. However, we are all different, so what works for me may not work for you. Please talk with your doctor about your sleep problems and the solutions you are considering.

I’m glad I feel more rested in the morning, but it did take me time to adjust. I hope this information will help you to sleep a little better.

I’d love to hear from you!

Do you use oxygen at night? If so, how did you get used to it? If you use 6 lpm or more have you tried using a mask during the day or at night?

Please leave a comment below and share with those who could benefit via email or on social media.


Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Rachel San Miguel avatar

Rachel San Miguel

I use oxygen 24/7 and it is worse at night if I sleep laying down I wake up and during the night congested. I sleep almost sitting up

Helen Turcotte avatar

Helen Turcotte

I use oxygen at night: 3 lpm. I would wake up with sore lower legs when at 1 or 2. Not any more. I got used to sleeping with the cannula right away. Because I fall asleep on my stomach, I tie it to the back of my head using a small length of Q-tip stick to insert into the slider so it won’t get loose. Works just fine for me. Helen

Anne Philiben avatar

Anne Philiben

I didn't have any problem adjusting to 02 at night and was surprised. I am however having problems adjusting to my increased need for 02 with activity.

Sandra Keesee avatar

Sandra Keesee

I use a CPAP and have recently added the O2. I have never slept good, even with CPAP before O2. It’s a rare thing for me to sleep more than 2 hrs most of my life, lol I know that O2 drops when you sleep, I wonder if this has been the issue all my life.

Darlene MacLean avatar

Darlene MacLean

Your heart needs to rest and recover sometimes too! If you go without enough O2 it works overtime to compensate. Don't cause yourself yet another problem by not using enough oxygen.

Marylou ward avatar

Marylou ward

I too use oxygen at 2 lpm at night. I sleep much better and have started using it more in the day time. Walking I use4 lpm and sitting I use2 lpm. I breath better so I’m using it more. Quality of life. I’m 75 yo just turned this age.

Sherri Norton avatar

Sherri Norton

I also use oxygen 24/7. When I go out I have Oxi-View glasses and they are wonderful. The oxygen comes through the frames into canulas at your nose. Hardly noticable. You can get the frames online and then have your optometrist put in prescription lenses if necessary. Highly recommend them.

unknown avatar


How do you sneeze if you're wearing it?

Ron Johnson avatar

Ron Johnson

I have been using O2 at night for over a year and use a POC on exertion. I have learned two things that might help in keeping the cannula clean. I use an alcohol patch (comes in individual pouches at the pharmacy) to clean the nose tubes every morning and after each use during the day.
A ziplock bag comes in handy to store the nose piece in temporarily to keep it from hitting the floor as so often happens when trying to handle the tube. My mother in law thought of this after her heart surgery.

John Campbell avatar

John Campbell

What are good methods for keeping the cannula in place while sleeping? I often find mine out of the nostrils.

Susan Ashcroft-Simpson avatar

Susan Ashcroft-Simpson

Hi, my mum uses oxygen at 8 lpm 24/7 and has a terrible problem with her nose blocking up, this means she then can’t get enough oxygen. We are using all sorts of sprays and she also uses a nebuliser often to moisten her nose, but these things aren’t great. Does anyone have an advice ? Thank you so much it’s such a difficult illness isn’t it x

nancy fitzsimonds avatar

nancy fitzsimonds

I wake up & my oxygen has fallen out of my nose.I then use for about an hour while I'm awake.I have tried taping the small hose to the s ide of my face but tht also oes not always work! I have sleep-aptnea.Sorry I cannot spell!,Nancy

Jodi Sprague avatar

Jodi Sprague

I wear oxygen at night at a 2. But I sleep with my mouth open and wake up alit during the night with dry mouth. Does anybody have any suggestions to help me with the dry mouth? I have a glass of water by my bed. Would turning up my oxygen help?

Linda avatar


No, don't turn your oxygen up. it's unsafe for you to be at a higher level than what you need, it can make you dizzy give you headaches and other kinds of problems. Also turning your oxygen up will only make your mouth more dry. my nose was getting very dry and I was using saline spray, but my doctor told me to use Ayr gel spray and that's keeping my nose moist. I don't know what to do about a dry mouth other than drinking water like you said

Raymond Benedict avatar

Raymond Benedict

Hi my name is Ray I am I on oxygen at rest and around the house it is only point seven five millimeter its when I start doing physical things I get more short-winded I checked with my odometer on my finger and it will be 96-97 all day is this good to be that high with COPD or what can I do to bring that down I barely have my oxygen concentrator on the lowest level

Joann L Jacobson avatar

Joann L Jacobson

My oxygen dropped into the 60 I have restpirtory failure is it safe to sleep with oxygen? Reply joann


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