Study links poor sleep to increased risk of COPD flare-ups

Medical representation of diseased lungs inside the human chest.

Poor sleep is associated with a significantly increased risk of life-threatening flare-ups in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, according to a new study supported by the National Institutes of Health. The risk for these flare-ups – sudden bouts of worsening breathing – was 25% to 95% higher in people who experienced poor sleep than in people who had good quality sleep. The findings suggest that poor sleep may be a better predictor of flare-ups than even a person’s history of smoking, particularly in Black patients.  

The observational study, one of the largest to look at the links between sleep quality and COPD flare-ups, was largely funded by the NHLBI. Its findings appeared in the journal SLEEP

 Marishka Brown, Ph.D., director of the NHLBI’s National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, agreed that this study is an important milestone. “Sleep has not been extensively studied as a modifier of COPD outcomes,” Brown said. “This study adds to a growing knowledge base demonstrating the harmful effects of poor sleep on health in general but can be particularly damaging in people with devastating preexisting conditions, such as COPD.” 

While the findings apply to all races and ethnicities, the study has particular relevancy for Black Americans, researchers said. That’s because past studies show that this group tends to have poorer sleep quality than other races and ethnicities. As poorer sleep is now linked to worse COPD outcomes, the current study may help explain why Black Americans as a group tend to do worse when they have COPD, compared to other racial and ethnic groups, the researchers suggested. 

Media Coverage

American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC)
American Association for Respiratory Care (Newsroom)