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Poor sleep quality and quantity may put you at risk of developing asthma, according to a new study.
Previous research has already shown that asthma can lead to sleep problems, but the researchers wanted to know whether the association works the other way around — that is, how a person slept affects the likelihood of developing asthma, they said. The study was published on Monday In BMJ Journal of Open Respiratory Research.
“We’ve always known there’s some connection between asthma and sleep, but most of the work has focused on the presence of obstructive sleep apnea,” said pediatric allergist Dr. Amal Asad said. Immunology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. She was not involved in the latest study.
For the study, researchers looked at data from a cohort of more than 450,000 people from 2006 to 2010. UK Biobank, A large biomedical database and research resource follows residents over long periods of time. Those surveyed were between the ages of 38 and 73, the report said.
Over a 10-year follow-up, nearly 18,000 people in the study were diagnosed with asthma, according to the study. Analysis of the data showed that people with both a genetic predisposition and poor sleep habits were twice as likely to develop asthma than those in the low-risk group.
In general, a genetic predisposition increases your risk of developing asthma by 25% to 30%, said Dr. Juanita Mora, a Chicago-based allergist/immunologist and national spokeswoman for the American Lung Association. She is not involved in research.
There is good news: Healthy sleep patterns have been shown to be associated with a lower risk of asthma, regardless of genetic susceptibility, the study said.
The authors added that people with high-risk genes and good sleep patterns had a slightly lower risk of developing asthma than those with low genetic risk and poor sleep patterns.
By monitoring and treating sleep conditions, healthcare professionals may mitigate the development of asthma, the study authors wrote. Research suggests that improving sleep characteristics can prevent 19% of asthma cases.
The finding points to the need for doctors and nurses to talk with their asthma patients about their sleep habits to see if their behavior is making symptoms worse, Mora added.
The key to understanding this study is understanding the interplay between genetics and behavior, Asad said.
The researchers looked at all the small changes in DNA that put a person at risk of developing asthma, he added. The combination of those markers and the risk in genetics is called a person’s polygenic risk score.
But most people don’t know their genetic score for how susceptible they are to developing asthma, instead only knowing how severe their symptoms are, Assad said.
What people can do is monitor their triggers and exacerbating factors — sleep seems to be one of many — to gain optimal control over their asthma, Mora said.
He added that the results may underscore the importance of good sleep hygiene for everyone, regardless of their asthma genetics.
According to the study, inflammation may be behind why sleep is so important for managing or preventing asthma.
Asthma is generally considered a chronic inflammatory disease, the study says. Previous research has shown that problems with sleep and insomnia are associated with chronic inflammation.
Sleep disorders are associated with long-term activation of the stress response, some part of which may play an important role in the development of asthma, the study suggests.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need at least seven hours of sleep a night.
For many, that doesn’t happen – 1 in 3 Americans have insomnia. According to the CDC.
But it’s not just quantity you need to focus on – quality matters too.
Symptoms of poor sleep include not being able to rest after getting enough sleep, waking up repeatedly during the night, and experiencing symptoms. Sleep disorders (such as snoring or gasping for air),” the CDC said.
That’s where good sleep hygiene (or habits) come into play.
The CDC recommends going to bed and waking up at the same time, keeping the bedroom comfortable and dark, and avoiding electronic devices before bed.
According to a 2021 CNN story, a comfortable room is usually cool — about 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 20 degrees Celsius).
A routine to get yourself ready for bed isn’t just for babies who need a bath and a book before bed. Putting an end to familiar activities is a good way to signal to the brain of all ages that it’s time to rest, psychologist Ariel Williamson of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia told CNN earlier this year.
You should avoid heavy meals, caffeine and alcohol too close to bed and be active during the day for better sleep.
If none of those changes improve your sleep, experts say, it may be time to see a doctor.
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