Sleep problems tend to go with asthma; patients and doctors alike have known this for some time. New research, however, suggests that poor sleep habits can actually increase the risk of developing asthma.
A large-scale, long-term study examined sleep habits and genetic vulnerability to asthma. Researchers followed 455,405 individuals with high, medium, or low genetic risk of asthma for ten years. They found that people with healthy sleep patterns were less likely to experience asthma symptoms, even if they had high levels of genetic risk.
People with poor sleep habits and high genetic susceptibility were twice as likely to develop asthma as those with low levels of risk. Healthy sleep habits were associated with lower risk at all levels of genetic vulnerability.
The researchers concluded that 19% of asthma cases could be prevented with healthy sleep habits.
What are healthy habits?
The researchers identified the following health habits:
- early chronotype, being an early bird rather than a night owl
- 7–9 hours of sleep every night
- never or rare insomnia
- no snoring
- little daytime sleepiness
Asthma is likely to lead to sleep apnea, and is also often associated with snoring, daytime sleepiness, and insomnia in the form of short sleep times. But the new research demonstrates that it is not always the case that asthma causes these sleep problems. It appears that sleep problems can be a biomarker for asthma susceptibility.
The researchers suggest that early identification of sleep problems could lead to early detection and management of asthma.