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HomeEditor's PickPoor sleep linked to increased asthma risk – Chinese study

Poor sleep linked to increased asthma risk – Chinese study

Sleeping badly has been linked to an inflammatory response in the body which increases the risk of asthma, say scientists from Shandong University in China, who used data from UK Biobank to examine half a million people with varying sleep patterns over 10 years.

They found healthy sleep patterns were linked to a reduced risk of asthma, while poor sleep raised the likelihood of a diagnosis, and also, that a low genetic risk combined with a healthy sleep pattern could prevent around a fifth of asthma cases.

“The study highlighted the importance of early detection and management of sleep disorders, which could help reduce asthma incidence,” the researchers said.

The Independent reports that participants were asked about their sleeping patterns, including whether they were a morning person or a night owl, how long they slept for, whether they snored, had insomnia, and whether they suffered excessive daytime sleepiness.

A healthy sleep pattern was defined as being more of a morning person, sleeping for seven to nine hours a night, rarely suffering from insomnia, no snoring and no frequent sleepiness during the day.

Based on their responses, 16% had a healthy sleep pattern, 62% had an intermediate sleep pattern and 22% had a poor sleep pattern.

A third of participants had a high genetic risk of asthma, another third had an intermediate risk and the final third were low risk cases.

Compared with those at low genetic risk, those with the highest genetic risk were 47% more likely to be diagnosed with asthma, while those with a poor sleep pattern were 55% more likely.

A healthy sleep pattern decreased the risk of asthma by 44% in those at low genetic risk, 41% in those at intermediate risk and 37% in those with a high genetic risk.

Over the 10-year study, 4% of participants were diagnosed with asthma, according to the study which appeared in The BMJ Open Respiratory Research journal.

The study team said these people were more likely to have certain traits, including poor sleep patterns, obesity, high genetic risk of asthma, high levels of smoking and drinking, high blood pressure and greater exposure to air pollution.

Study details

Highlighting the importance of healthy sleep patterns in the risk of adult asthma under the combined effects of genetic susceptibility: a large-scale prospective cohort study of 455 405 participants

Bowen Xiang, Mengxiao Hu, Haiyang Yu, Yike Zhang, Qing Wang, Fuzhong Xu.

Published in The BMJ Open Respiratory Research Journals on 3 April 2023-04-07


Individuals with asthma usually have comorbid sleep disturbances; however, whether sleep quality affects asthma risk is still unclear. We aimed to determine whether poor sleep patterns could increase the risk of asthma and whether healthy sleep patterns could mitigate the adverse effect of genetic susceptibility.

A large-scale prospective study was performed in the UK Biobank cohort involving 455 405 participants aged 38–73 years. Polygenic risk scores (PRSs) and comprehensive sleep scores, including five sleep traits, were constructed. A multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression model was used to investigate the independent and combined effects of sleep pattern and genetic susceptibility (PRS) on asthma incidence. Subgroup analysis across sex and sensitivity analysis, including a 5-year lag, different covariate adjustments and repeat measurements were performed.

A total of 17 836 individuals were diagnosed with asthma during over 10 years of follow-up. Compared with the low-risk group, the HRs and 95% CIs for the highest PRS group and the poor sleep pattern group were 1.47 (95% CI: 1.41 to 1.52) and 1.55 (95% CI: 1.45 to 1.65), respectively. A combination of poor sleep and high genetic susceptibility led to a twofold higher risk compared with the low-risk combination (HR (95% CI): 2.22 (1.97 to 2.49), p<0.001). Further analysis showed that a healthy sleep pattern was associated with a lower risk of asthma in the low, intermediate and high genetic susceptibility groups (HR (95% CI): 0.56 (0.50 to 0.64), 0.59 (0.53 to 0.67) and 0.63 (0.57 to 0.70), respectively). Population-attributable risk analysis indicated that 19% of asthma cases could be prevented when these sleep traits were improved.

Individuals with poor sleep patterns and higher genetic susceptibility have an additive higher asthma risk. A healthy sleep pattern reflected a lower risk of asthma in adult populations and could be beneficial to asthma prevention regardless of genetic conditions. Early detection and management of sleep disorders could be beneficial to reduce asthma incidence.


The BMJ article – Highlighting the importance of healthy sleep patterns in the risk of adult asthma under the combined effects of genetic susceptibility: a large-scale prospective cohort study of 455 405 participants (Creative Commons Licence)


The Independent article – Poor sleep raises risk of developing asthma, study shows (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Troubled sleep link to increased risk of AD and bradyarrhythmia — UK Biobank data


More young Brits dying from asthma than anywhere in Europe


Not enough night-time sleep linked to clogged arteries – Swedish study


Lack of sleep heightens infection risks – Norwegian study


Study finds over 30% adult asthma diagnoses are incorrect






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