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Breathing difficulty while lying down is an abnormal condition in which a person must keep the head raised (by sitting or standing) to be able to breathe deeply or comfortably.
A specific type of breathing difficulty while lying down is paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea. This condition causes a person to wake up suddenly during the night feeling short of breath.
Waking at night short of breath; Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea; PND; Difficulty breathing while lying down; Orthopnea
This is a common complaint in people with some types of heart or lung problems. Sometimes the problem is subtle. People may only notice it when they realize that sleep is more comfortable with lots of pillows under their head, or their head in a propped-up position.
Your health care provider may prescribe treatment for breathing difficulty while lying down. The treatment will depend on the specific illness causing the problem.
Weight loss is generally recommended in people who are obese.
If you have any unexplained difficulty in breathing while lying down, call for an appointment with your health care provider.
The health care provider will perform a physical examination and take your medical history.
Medical history questions may include:
The physical examination will include special attention to the heart and lungs (cardiovascular and respiratory systems).
Diagnostic tests that may be performed include the following:
You may need to receive supplemental oxygen.
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Massie BM. Heart failure: pathophysiology and diagnosis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 57.
Hobbs R, Boyle A. Heart failure. In: Carey WD, ed. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine 2010. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010.