Counting Sheep: Asthma and Sleep

When I was a child I had this awesome wool sheep toy. When you titled it forward, it would go "baaaaaa". My relationship with sheep moved from toys, to at times counting them in an attempt to fall asleep.

While I tend to associate my periodic insomnia issues to my prednisone use for my asthma. I am thankful that the insomnia episodes tend to be short-lived.

Asthma attack is less common in the first part of the night

After reading a recent journal article, I had one of those " I had no idea!" moments and even shared the news with a phone. Yes, I phoned a friend to share information I had just to discovered while reading a medical journal article. My information was the discovery of the connections between circadian and sleep factor roles in asthma.1

My "aha" moment was learning that lower airway resistance increases progressively through the night regardless of sleep or not.2 The onset of an asthma attack is less common in the first part of the night. Who knew?3 This may have confirmed my nerd status, however, I thought this was really interesting.

Links between insomnia and risk factors associated with asthma

I was deep into my research about risk factors and asthma and I came across a new prospective study that is currently examining the links between insomnia and risk factors associated with asthma. The study was recently published in the European Respiratory Journal. I am grateful that researchers are starting to link asthma with more risk factors, the more that we can get ahead of the risk factors, the better.

I needed to start at the beginning when reading through this data. How is insomnia defined? “Sleep researcher and last author of the study, Dr Linn Beate Strand, from the Department of Public Health and General Practice, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), explained:

“Insomnia, defined as having difficulties initiating or maintaining sleep, or having poor sleep quality, is common among asthma patients, but whether insomnia patients have a higher risk of developing asthma at a later stage has not been thoroughly investigated."

Implications of chronic insomnia on asthma

Dr. Ben Brumpton, lead author of the study from the HUNT Research Center, commented:

“A key finding in our study is that those 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 may accumulate and result in more severe harmful effects on the airways.”

While the research is in its early stages there is good news. Insomnia is mostly manageable which means that there is hope that keeping insomnia well managed can also positively affect the risk factors.

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