Most people know that asthma causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing, but did you know asthma is also associated with poor sleep and daytime sleepiness? University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing researcher Faith Luyster, PhD, and her team asked 714 people enrolled in the Severe Asthma Research Program to complete questionnaires about asthma, sleep, depression, anxiety, and quality of life. Of the 714 asthma patients surveyed, 263 (37 percent) were identified as having insomnia—three times higher than the rate in the general population.
In findings published in the journal Chest, researchers reported that study participants with both asthma and insomnia reported more depression and anxiety symptoms, worse asthma control, poorer quality of life, and more frequent asthma-related health care use compared to people with asthma who do not struggle with insomnia. While often assumed that people with asthma wake up due to nighttime asthma symptoms, a surprising finding was that almost 25 percent of respondents with insomnia did not report sleep-disturbing nighttime asthma symptoms.
Researchers are not sure why insomnia may be related to frequent, hard-to control asthma symptoms, but previous studies have shown that sleep problems can decrease lung function and increase inflammation in the body. According to Sally Wenzel, MD, Director of the University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute and co-investigator of the study, “Many people with asthma don’t sleep well, but we still really don’t know whether sleeping poorly makes people have more asthma symptoms or whether asthma makes people sleep poorly.” Further studies are planned to gain a better understanding of the link between insomnia and asthma, and to provide interventions to help asthma sufferers achieve better sleep.
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