Asthma and Sleep

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evidence suggests that airway function is best just before the onset of sleep and decreases as sleep progresses. That is, the more a person with asthma sleeps, the greater the impairment of his or her lungs. This phenomenon is true for all people, although the effect tends to be greater for people with asthma. These airway changes do not typically disturb sleep in healthy subjects. However, people with asthma frequently show the first symptoms of their disease during sleep, according to research.

Although asthma affects people of all ages, it often starts in childhood and is more common in children than adults, according to the NHLBI. It is extremely important for children with asthma to get adequate sleep. An April 2005 Harris poll conducted for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found that 48% of child asthma sufferers experienced disturbed sleep as a result of asthma. Also, the NHLBI reports that asthma is one of the leading causes of children missing school.

In a study published in Archives of Diseases in Children, sleep disturbance was studied in children with nocturnal asthma. Researchers found that children whose sleep was disturbed by nocturnal asthma also exhibited signs of psychological problems and impaired performance in school. However, they also found that if treatment were given to improve the nocturnal symptoms and thus reduce sleep disturbance, improvement in mental function followed. This and other studies provide evidence that the effects of asthma on sleep and the possible psychological consequences are important aspects of overall care.

Even though the cause of asthma is not known, it is important for a person with asthma to know the factors that may trigger an asthmatic attack. The following are some common triggers:

  • Colds
  • Flu and viruses
  • Dust and/or dust mites
  • Allergens, including mold
  • Animal dander
  • Smoke
  • Strong odors
  • Exercise
  • Reflux disease
  • Weather
  • Medication*
  • Food
  • Emotions
  • Laughter

*Medications that may trigger asthma include anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin and other over-the-counter pain relievers) and beta blockers (for high blood pressure, migraine headaches, etc.).


Symptoms of asthma occur when the airway becomes inflamed and constricts to make breathing

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