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Asthma and Poor Sleep Could be Linked, Studies Show

— April 26, 2023

Not getting enough sleep could be associated with asthma.

It’s fairly well understood by now that good sleep can improve many aspects of life, and is generally crucial to good overall health. Brain function, mood, stress, and cognitive function all benefit from routinely getting a good night’s rest. The flipside is also true: Poor sleep has been found to increase the risk of many diseases and disorders, including heart disease, stroke, obesity, and dementia as well as anxiety and mood instability. Now, we can add asthma to that list.

New research reveals that consistently poor sleep quality can potentially double a person’s chance of being diagnosed with asthma. A UK Biobank study, published in the BMJ Open Respiratory Research journal, followed 455,405 individuals between the ages of 38 and 73 years old. Genetics and other risk factors, including obesity, higher levels of smoking and drinking, high blood pressure, were taken into account during the study, but the findings related to sleep patterns were perhaps the most unexpected.

Those with the highest genetic risk factors were 47% more likely to be diagnosed with asthma, while people who had poor sleep habits were 55% more likely. However, the likelihood more than doubled — to 122% — among those with both high genetic risk and poor sleep patterns, as compared to individuals who had both healthy sleep habits and low genetic risk.

Asthma and Poor Sleep Could be Linked, Studies Show
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We can’t control our genetic makeup, of course, so if asthma runs in the family, a person automatically inherits some risk for developing it. But the study indicates that there is a controllable aspect to avoiding asthma, whether there is a high genetic risk or not: prioritizing consistently getting a good night’s rest. Even amongst those with highest genetic risk for developing asthma, consistently healthy sleep patterns were shown to reduce the risk by as much as 37%.

What can be done to improve sleep? There are many ways to improve the quality of sleep, but they all start with examining current habits and trying to determine what to do — or what not to do — that might be having a negative impact on nightly slumber. Experts often echo common tips and habits that can help improve sleep, including reducing the use of electronic devices just before bedtime, and even going so far as to remove them from the bedroom altogether. Consistency in timing is another helpful habit for good sleep, as going to bed at the same time each night, and getting up at the same time in the morning, can help. Exercising during the day, avoiding large meals and caffeine close to bedtime, and keeping the bedroom quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature can all help you get better sleep as well.

Then again, if one is among the estimated 50 to 70 million Americans who suffer from a sleep disorder, they can do all of the above and still struggle to get proper rest. Insomnia and sleep apnea present a host of health problems, including negatively affecting sleep quality. It’s important to talk with a healthcare provider if dealing with a sleep disorder or otherwise having difficulty getting good sleep on a consistent basis.


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