People who have asthma as children are more than twice as likely to develop sleep apnea as adults, according to new research from the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort at the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Medicine. Apnea is a chronic, oxygen-deprivation condition during sleep.
Mihaela Teodorescu, a pulmonologist, sleep specialist and researcher, and her co-authors examined data from 25 years of the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort, which began in 1988 with about 1,500 people who volunteered to sleep for science. This study looked at a group of 773 who suffered from childhood asthma but did not have apnea when the study started.
After adjusting for age, sex, body mass index, alcohol consumption and smoking, researchers found that people with any type of asthma were 1.73 times as likely to develop apnea over an eight-year period. And the longer the asthma lasted, the greater the chance of developing apnea. Overall, 45 participants developed asthma during the study, and 48% were more likely to go on to develop apnea.
“We knew (asthma and sleep apnea) were related, but it was a chicken-and-egg relationship—which condition came first?” Teodorescu says. The new study suggests that asthma may come first, but Teodorescu says she expects they are part of a vicious cycle, in which one breathing problem makes the other one worse. She presented her study May 19 at the American Thoracic Society 2013 International Conference in Philadelphia.