If You Have Asthma and Sleep Issues, You Need to Read This

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

It goes without saying that if you suffer from asthma, you should probably not be smoking. We all know smoking is unhealthy for our lungs and if you have asthma, not only can smoking worsen asthma symptoms, it can also affect your sleep.

The Link Between Anxiety, Insomnia, Asthma and Smoking

A Norwegian study looked at the sleep data of 1,342 individuals with asthma. The ages of participants ranged from 19 to 91, with an average age of 53. It was noted that 60 percent of those studied were female.

Researchers found that:

  • 33 percent were smokers

  • 18 percent reported high levels of anxiety

  • 11 percent reported high levels of depression

After further analysis, researchers discovered that women, those who were older, those who were less well educated and those who smoked were more likely to suffer from insomnia.** Insomnia was also associated with:**

  • Not exercising

  • More severe asthma symptoms

  • Anxiety and depression

Why Is There a Link?

It has been suggested that asthmatics may be smoking to relieve anxiety and depression since nicotine can alleviate these conditions in the short-term.

Unfortunately, smoking continues to have a harmful effect on the lungs, and this research shows that it can harm sleep.

Asthma isn't linked solely to insomnia, either. One study found that those with asthma can be up to nearly three times more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea.

How to Improve Sleep When You Have Asthma

1. Stop smoking

If you smoke, you're further damaging your lungs which is bad for your overall health as well as your sleep health. Smokers with asthma have more insomnia.

2. Address any issues with anxiety and depression

Reducing anxiety or depression symptoms can improve sleep (and make it easier to quit if you're a smoker). This doesn't necessarily require medication. One effective method of reducing anxiety and depression is cognitive behavioral therapy.

3. Get more exercise

Exercise is not only good for the body, it's good for the mind. Exercising has been found to improve sleep and it also helps reduce stress (a known asthma trigger) and depression.

4. Improve sleep hygiene

Make sure you're doing everything possible to get a good night's sleep. Many people who suffer from insomnia are making it more difficult to sleep due to their routines and behaviors. Practice good sleep hygiene to set the stage for a good night of sleep.

5. Control your asthma symptoms

An American study found that teenagers with poor asthma control (or undiagnosed asthma) had more sleep problems such as regular nighttime awakenings and daytime sleepiness. Another study found that children with asthma got less sleep, had reduced sleep quality, found it difficult to stay asleep, snored, and had more daytime sleepiness.

Having poor control over asthma is linked to lower sleep efficiency and less REM sleep.

Be aware of environmental allergens and irritants in the home (such as pollen, pet dander, or even food sensitivities) that can trigger asthma. Finally, make sure you speak with your doctor to make sure you are correctly diagnosed and are on the best possible treatment plan.

  • Andenæs, Randi, and Carolyn E Schwartz. "Anxiety mediates the effect of smoking on insomnia in people with asthma: evidence from the HUNT3 study." Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare 9 (2016): 21-28. Accessed May 24, 2016.
  • Che, D., and M. Lu. "Sleep disorders in children with asthma." Sleep Medicine 16 (2015): S22-S23. Accessed May 24, 2016.
  • Koinis Mitchell, Daphne, Sheryl J. Kopel, Brittney Williams, Amarilis Cespedes, and Jean"Marie Bruzzese. "The Association Between Asthma and Sleep in Urban Adolescents With Undiagnosed Asthma." Journal of School Health 85.8 (2015): 519-526. Accessed May 24, 2016.
  • Teodorescu, Mihaela, Jodi H. Barnet, Erika W. Hagen, Mari Palta, Terry B. Young, and Paul E. Peppard. "Association Between Asthma and Risk of Developing Obstructive Sleep Apnea." Survey of Anesthesiology 60.2 (2016): 91-92. Accessed May 24, 2016.
Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.