Patients with Asthma are more likely to have Insomnia

New research out of the University of Pittsburgh shows that patients with asthma are highly likely to suffer from insomnia, which puts them at greater risk of decreased asthma control, anxiety, depression, and other health problems or quality of life issues.  The research and findings were published and discussed in the journal, CHEST.

Asthma patients frequently report trouble sleeping, but the burden on quality of life from insomnia in asthma patients is unknown.  Asthma is a chronic disease marked by narrowed, swollen, or inflamed airways leading to difficulty breathing because of muscle spasms that happen in the airways as a result of trying to keep the airways open.  There are no previous studies to look at how insomnia affects asthma control and the utilization of the healthcare system by asthma patients.

This study reports the following:

  • About 37% of asthma patients also had clinically significant insomnia.
  • Patients with insomnia had worse lung function, lower household income, and higher BMI than those who did not have insomnia.
  • Almost 25% of asthma patients met diagnostic criteria for insomnia, despite not having nighttime asthma symptoms.
  • Patients with insomnia reported more frequent use of the healthcare system within a 12-month period than those who did not have insomnia.
  • Asthma patients with insomnia reported more episodes of depression and anxiety, as well as lower quality of life due to asthma-related problems. This is suggestive of higher risk of adverse outcomes in asthma patients who have an associated insomnia disorder.

Researchers note that these findings indicate a significant impact of an insomnia disorder in patients with asthma, and their well-being and quality of life are severely affected.  Their treatment interventions and action plan should include evaluation and treatment of insomnia symptoms.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Faith Luyster, notes that these results suggest that difficulty sleeping may not be solely due to asthma-related awakenings, but instead may be due to insomnia as a comorbid condition.  Further, the insomnia can inadvertently affect asthma symptoms and treatments by decreasing quality of life and increasing their use of the healthcare system.

As with all new findings, further study is warranted to understand the link between asthma control and insomnia, even though it is clear that insomnia is prevalent in asthma patients who also have adverse outcomes.  Future studies can be done to look at interventions like cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.


Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.


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