Poor Sleep Habits Increase Risk of Asthma

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April 4, 2023 – People with poor sleep habits are more likely to develop asthma, a large new study shows. 

For people who already have a genetic predisposition toward the breathing disorder, the combination of family history and poor sleep habits increased the risk of developing asthma more than two-fold.

It’s common for people already diagnosed with asthma to have sleep problems. However, these latest findings show that the relationship with sleep and asthma is “bidirectional,” and sleep problems can be a sign that a new asthma diagnosis is likely.

“A healthy sleep pattern reflected a lower risk of asthma in adult populations and could be beneficial to asthma prevention regardless of genetic conditions,” study authors, from Shandong University in China, wrote in the journal BMJ Open Respiratory Research. “Early detection and management of sleep disorders could be beneficial to reduce asthma incidence.”

Even if people had a genetic risk toward developing asthma, having healthy sleep habits significantly reduced the likelihood of that happening, researchers found.

Using benchmarks from previous research, healthy sleep habits were defined as:

  • Consider yourself to be more of a “morning person,” versus an “evening person.”
  • Getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.
  • Never or rarely having insomnia.
  • No snoring.
  • Don’t frequently feel sleepy during the daytime.

The study analyzed data from the UK Biobank for more than 450,000 British people ages 37 to 73 who reported about their sleep from 2006 to 2010. The average age was 56 years old. During the study, 17,836 people were diagnosed with asthma. The median follow-up period was eight years. 

Asthma is a disorder characterized by difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. The problems are caused by narrowed airways that may swell and may produce extra mucus, the Mayo Clinic explains. About 8% of people in the U.S. have asthma, according to the CDC, which reported that in 2020, 204 children and 3,941 adults died from asthma attacks. The majority of adult deaths occurred among people age 35 and older.

Researchers found that other predictors of being diagnosed with asthma during the follow-up period were having a low level of education, obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, acid reflux, and high exposure to air pollution.