Asthma, a chronic lung airway disease, has been linked to obesity and pollution. Other risk factors include smoking, allergies, viral infections, family history and exposure to certain powders and chemicals. More recent research has associated the adult onset of asthma with depression and anxiety. According to the most recent estimates of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAI), about 1 in 10 children and 1 in 12 adults have asthma. A new Norwegian study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, suggests that insomnia could also be a risk factor for the development of asthma. Sleep researcher and research leader of the study Dr. Linn Beate Strand, of the Department of Public Health and General Practice at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) of Trondheim, explains the motivation of the study: “Insomnia, defined how to have difficulty in initiating or maintaining sleep, or having poor quality of sleep, is common among asthmatic patients, but if patients with insomnia have a greater risk of developing asthma at a later stage it has not been thoroughly studied”.
The researchers reviewed data from the Nord-Trøndelag (HUNT) health study, a continuous health survey of the entire population over 20 years old living in Nord-Trøndelag county, Norway. The team calculated the risk of incident asthma among adults with insomnia compared to counterparts without asthma. In total, the study examined 17.927 participants aged 20 to 65 years. Those with insomnia have reported difficulty falling asleep, difficulty in maintaining sleep and poor quality of sleep, i.e. “non-restorative” sleep. The participants reported any symptoms of insomnia at the beginning and end of the study, about 11 years later. Overall, the study showed that participants who reported symptoms of insomnia had a higher risk of developing asthma compared to their insomnia-free counterparts. Those who reported having problems falling asleep “often” in the last month had a 65% higher risk of developing asthma for the next 11 years. For those who have difficulty falling asleep “almost every night”, the risk rises to 108%.
Furthermore, those who reported problems sleeping – for example, waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep “often” or “almost every night”, had a 92% and 36% risk of asthma onset during the 11 years, respectively. Those who reported poor quality of sleep “more than once a week” had a 94% higher risk of developing asthma. Finally, those with chronic insomnia had a higher triple risk of developing asthma, compared to those who did not have insomnia. The main author of the study, dr. Brumpton of the HUNT Research Center, Department of Public Health, comments on the results: “A key finding in our study is that people with chronic insomnia had more than three times the risk of developing asthma, compared to those without chronic insomnia, which suggests that any changes in the body due to insomnia can build up and be more serious adverse effects on the airways. Further prospective studies are needed to confirm the results of our study “.
- edited by Dr. GIanfrancesco Cormaci, PhD, specialist in Clinical Biochemistry.
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