The Relationship Between Asthma and Sleep Apnea Disorders

According to surveys there is a link between asthma during childhood and sleep apnea disorders during adulthood. One such study found that obstructive sleep apnea is common among asthmatics, but it is not yet proven if asthma causes said sleep disorder.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. Breathings stop for a few seconds to a few minutes, and can occur as many as 30 times an hour. This is usually caused by obstructions in the airways.

There are already several studies that prove that people affected by asthma are more prone to sleep apnea and such sleep disorders can worsen the symptoms of asthma. According to Dr. Mihaela Teodorescu, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin currently affiliated with MedPage Today, there are strong evidences proving the relationship between sleep apnea disorders and the occurrence of asthma. She further added that asthma worsens sleep apnea, as much as sleep apnea worsens asthma. She and her colleagues want to understand what started such a cycle and if asthma promotes sleep apnea disorders.

Dr. Teoderescu, together with her colleagues, is currently conducting studies on whether the presence of asthma affects the chances of Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study (WSCS) participants with new onset obstructive sleep apnea.

The WSCS study was conducted among adults aged between 30 to 60 years old. The study started in 1988, with four years interval. The participants underwent clinical assessments, polysomnography tests, and answered health history questionnaires.  In the beginning of the study, 41% of asthmatic participants reported to have obstructive sleep apnea, while only 29% were reported to have obstructive sleep apnea among non-asthmatic participants.

Moreover, among 205 asthmatic participants, 84 developed obstructive sleep apnea after eight years. Such results led the study to conclude individuals suffering from asthma have a 72% chance of having and developing sleep apnea disorders after eight years.

Furthermore, during the poster presentation by Dr. Teoderescu, she added that childhood asthma can be a good predictor for obstructive sleep apnea in adulthood. For every five year increment of the occurrence of asthma, the risk of having sleep apnea increases by 12%.

Dr. Susheel Patil, MD, and Instructor of Medicine at John Hopkins University, said that sleep apnea disorders are not only linked with excessive daytime sleepiness, but also with other serious conditions such as cardiac and circulatory problems, metabolic syndromes, and diabetes.  He also reported in MedPage Today that a relationship between asthma and sleep apnea is expected.

Dr. Teoderescu concluded that their prospective data can predict the occurrence of obstructive sleep apnea among people who suffer from asthma since childhood. She said that childhood-onset asthma is a risk factor for sleep apnea in adulthood. However, it is not yet known how asthma during childhood affects or causes the development of sleep apnea later in life. It is highly recommended that if one suffers from asthma, he or she should be tested for sleep apnea.

This study was reported and presented American Thoracic Society’s annual meeting in Philadelphia. is an authority on sleep apnea disorders; visit our site for more information.