A study conducting by the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, using data from the National Institute of Health shows that people with asthma are as much as 1.7 times more likely than those without asthma to develop sleep apnea, a chronic problem that causes pauses in breathing while sleeping. Sleep apnea is linked to other long-term problems, including stroke.

The study looked at over 1,500 patients who were tracked since 1988. The researchers also found that the age of diagnosis also played a role in the development of sleep apnea. Those with childhood onset asthma were 2.34 times as likely to develop sleep apnea by adulthood.

“This is the first longitudinal study to suggest a causal relationship between asthma and sleep apnea diagnosed in laboratory-based sleep studies,” said Mihaela Teodorescu, MD, MS, assistant professor of medicine at the university, who will present the research at ATS 2013. “Cross-sectional studies have shown that OSA is more common among those with asthma, but those studies weren’t designed to address the direction of the relationship.”

The study adjusted for variables that could contribute to sleep apnea, including age, sex, BMI, smoking, consumption of alcoholic beverages and sinus related issues. Overall, it does show that asthma should be a consideration used when diagnosing sleep apnea.

Ramie Tritt, MD, President, Atlanta ENT