COPD flare-ups are linked to a lack of sleep

According to research conducted by the University of California San Francisco and funded by the US National Institutes of Health, poor sleep is linked to life-threatening flare-ups of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

People with poor sleep were 25% more likely to have a COPD flare-up in the following year, while those with the worst sleep had a 95% increased chance of having a COPD flare-up in the following year.

According to the study results, which were published in the journal SLEE sleep quality, rather than factors like smoking, may be a better predictor of COPD exacerbations.

The research was one of the largest to look at how sleep impacts COPD and the potentially life-threatening flare-ups that come with it. COPD refers to a group of lung diseases that include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In England, approximately 1.17 million people (1.9 percent of the population) were diagnosed with the disease in 2020/21, according to NHS Digital data. Many people, on the other hand, may be suffering from the disease without even realising it.

For three years, the researchers followed 1 647 COPD patients, recording both COPD flare- ups and the participants' sleep quality. Seven standard sleep measures, such as sleep patterns, timing, and regularity of disruptions, were asked of the patients. All of the participants were current or former tobacco smokers who were part of the COPD Study's subpopulations and intermediate outcome measures.

Poor sleep quality was firmly linked to a higher number of COPD flare-ups, according to the findings, which looked at how a person's risk of COPD exacerbations changed over the course of a year. The researchers discovered that those with the worst sleeping habits were much more likely to develop COPD complications in the following year.

According to Dr. Aaron Baugh of the University of California San Francisco Medical School, "Knowing how people sleep at night will inform me a lot more about their risk of a flare-up in people who already have COPD than having to know whether they smoked for 40 or 60 years. That's a big surprise, and it's not something I expected going into this study."

Poor sleep can weaken a healthy person's immune system, making them more susceptible to colds and flu, and this vulnerability can be amplified in people with COPD.

'From both a clinical and research standpoint, our activity provides a strong rationale for paying more attention to sleep than we have in the past,' Dr. Baugh added. ‘We now know that sleep quality can predict future exacerbations, but we don't understand whether bettering sleep quality will result in direct improvements in COPD outcomes. Future research on the impact of interventions, whether at the individual or community level, is encouraged.'

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