Too Little Sleep Worsens Asthma

Too little sleep worsens asthma because rest regulates breathing rhythm. However, an underlying complex health problem that combines other risk factors is at play, as well. Learn more in this article!
Too Little Sleep Worsens Asthma

Last update: 11 August, 2021

Sleep is a fundamental part of life, so much so that poor sleep affects many vital functions. Scientific research also revealed that too little sleep worsens asthma.

As a respiratory disease, asthma can be mild or severe. Mild forms cause intermittent symptoms. However, severe cases or asthmatic attacks affect rest and bronchospasms may occur during sleep.

Similarly, new findings have revealed that poor sleep worsens asthma and vice versa. The poorer the quality of the patient’s sleep, the more likely they are to see the signs of the disease during the day.

We need to mention the disorder sleep apnea in this regard. Many people who’ve had asthma for years and are overweight are likely to wake up suddenly during the night, feeling short of breath.

Too little sleep worsens asthma, and an underlying complex health problem that combines other risk factors is at play as well. This doesn’t exempt the heart or cardiovascular diseases.

According to a study, too little sleep worsens asthma

A study that stated that too little sleep worsens asthma was published in the latest issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Similarly, the study reports that other sleep disorders have the same negative effect.

The authors evaluated asthma patients over 20 years of age and divided them into three study groups:

  • Short sleepers. Those who slept little or less than six hours.
  • Normal sleepers. Those who slept between six and eight hours.
  • Long sleepers. Those who slept more than nine hours.

The last group was mostly made up of older women who smoked. On the contrary, those who slept fewer hours tended to be young.

In the long run, after follow-up, the short sleep group had a greater likelihood for hospitalizations for asthma attacks and a higher frequency of dry cough. This didn’t happen with long sleepers or those who slept a lot. However, this group showed problems carrying out daily life activities.

In addition to pointing out that too little sleep worsens asthma, these results also alerted researchers to the effects of sleep on breathing. In fact, there could be a physiological link between breathing and the resting brain.

A woman with asthma.
Different factors, including a poor night’s rest, worsen asthma.

Keep reading to learn more: Asma agudo severo: síntomas y tratamiento

Sleep apnea and asthma

As we mentioned above, some asthmatics also suffer from sleep apnea. This is a disorder in which the patient stops breathing for a few seconds during the night, without them realizing it. This causes intermittent oxygen desaturation, i.e. intermittent low blood oxygen levels.

Sleep apnea is twice as common in asthmatics as in the rest of the population. But that risk increases if they take inhaled corticosteroids.

Poor sleep worsens asthma and is almost unavoidable in sleep apnea patients, unless they start a specific treatment. This is a vicious cycle. These people have a hard time getting good sleep due to these small awakenings caused by the lack of oxygen.

In the morning, after a poor night’s sleep, the patient’s asthma worsens, which doesn’t allow them to function properly during the day. The next night, the cycle repeats all over again: they don’t get enough restful sleep and wake up worse the following day.

How can an asthmatic get better sleep?

A man with sleep apnea.

Some keys can improve the sleep quality of asthmatic patients. Now that you know that not getting enough restful sleep worsens asthma, you should take steps to improve the quality of your sleep as much as possible.

Firstly, you need to make sure that you’re taking the correct medication for your asthma. Asthma patients should be well monitored and medicated to minimize the chances of an attack.

Tobacco is obviously contraindicated, as is exposure to toxic substances in the air. Experts recommend these patients sleep in a room with objects that repel mites.

If the patient suffers from sleep apnea, they’ll need to see a pulmonologist so that they can get a machine that delivers constant and steady air pressure. These machines can significantly improve sleep.

Although not getting enough sleep worsens asthma, this can be reversed

The bad news that poor sleep worsens asthma should become a recommendation for asthmatics to pay attention to their sleep hygiene. You can take a few simple steps to regulate your sleep.

In any case, these patients should always consult a doctor to make sure to keep their asthma under control. Similarly, the only way to resolve sleep apnea is with specialist intervention.

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  • Luyster, Faith S., et al. “Associations of sleep duration with patient-reported outcomes and healthcare use in US adults with asthma.” Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (2020).
  • Koinis-Mitchell, Daphne, et al. “Asthma-related lung function, sleep quality, and sleep duration in urban children.” Sleep health 3.3 (2017): 148-156.
  • Kong, De-Lei, et al. “Association of obstructive sleep apnea with asthma: a meta-analysis.” Scientific reports 7.1 (2017): 1-7.
  • Londoño-Palacio, Natalia, and Carlos Machado. “Síndrome de apnea-hipopnea obstructiva del sueño y enfermedades respiratorias.” Revista de la Facultad de Medicina 65 (2017): 77-80.