Sleep apnea is a serious condition that is getting more and more publicity. The more studies that are done on the effects of sleep apnea, the more serious the condition appears to be.
Some of this upswell of public knowledge on sleep apnea can definitely be traced to when famed NFL football player Reggie White died suddenly in his sleep. The news was shocking because of how young he was, and the cause of death was tied to breathing obstruction due to sleep apnea, as reported by Medpage Today and many other sources.
The event was tragic, but it definitely led to more public attention on the disorder; more importantly it led to more funding for learning more about sleep apnea with the hope of understanding it better, and advancing treatments. Considering Reggie White played a good portion of his career in Green Bay, perhaps it’s appropriate that the University of Wisconsin’s researchers are the ones who take center stage this week with a potential new threat that comes with obstructive sleep apnea. That threat is asthma.
The New Asthma and Sleep Apnea Study
As reported by Medical News Today, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin, an observational study seemed to indicate that there might very well be a connection between asthma and sleep apnea.
When following patients over a 25 year period, researchers found that patients with any history of asthma at all were a full 1.7 times more likely to develop sleep apnea.
This is a causal relationship study, meaning there isn’t a direct correlation link being shown.
There’s no direct conclusion that sleep apnea causes asthma or that asthma causes sleep apnea, but there is strong evidence of some type of a causal relationship between the two. These sleep studies at the University of Wisconsin spanned decades, giving a solid base of data.
While the numbers did show that sleep apnea was more common with people with asthma, but since this wasn’t the original intent of the study, the exact nature of the relationship remains unknown.
What Did These Studies Show?
There were several interesting pieces of information that could be garnered from these studies. The first was that the connection between apnea, specifically obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), was especially strong among study participants who had asthma when they were children. These individuals were over 2.34 times as likely to end up with sleep apnea as those who had no experience with childhood asthma.
Duration also plays a major role. The longer that someone has had asthma or needed frequent treatments for asthma, the larger the chances of ending up with OSA. While these numbers aren’t exact, a rough pattern seems to show that for every 5-year increase in the amount of time asthma afflicted them, the chance of developing OSA increased up to 10%.
This wasn’t an immediate connection. In fact, it could take up to eight years to take place, but the connection appeared to be there. That could help explain why this potential connection went so long without being discovered.
What Can We Take Away from This Study?
There was enough interesting information that came from this long time study that it will almost certainly warrant a follow-up study that specifically looks at the asthma and sleep apnea relationship. There seems to be a definite connection, but one thing that is extremely important to note is that no one should take a correlation (“this causes that”) from these early studies. One may exist, but there isn’t quite enough information from this initial study to make that connection.
What we do know is that regardless of your history of breathing difficulties, if you are having problems getting the restful sleep you need, you should definitely consult your doctor. A sleep study from Sleep Rite will help you pinpoint the cause of your issues so you can finally get a good night’s rest!