A decade-long study has found that getting a decent night’s sleep on a regular basis may help to reduce the risk of developing asthma.

While it is not yet understood why some people develop asthma and others don’t, this latest research has suggested that bad sleep may intensify genetic susceptibility to the condition, even doubling the risk.

It has led to the team behind the study to propose that treating sleep disorders in the early stages could reduce this risk, regardless of genetic predisposition.

Using data from more than 455,000 people aged from 38 to 73, researchers from Shandong University in China produced a risk and sleep trait model and followed the study participants for more than 10 years.

They examined things like bedtimes, sleep duration, snoring, insomnia and extreme tiredness during the day.

Healthy sleep was defined as being a ‘morning person’, sleeping for seven to nine hours, no or little insomnia, an absence of snoring and little day-time sleepiness.

The research team also examined the participants’ genetic make-up and devised an asthma risk score.

They found that just over 17,800 of the participants were diagnosed with asthma at follow-up. The key findings were that people with the highest risk genetically were 47% more likely to develop asthma and those who regularly experienced poor sleep were 55% more likely to develop the condition.

The risk of developing asthma doubled in people at genetic risk who also suffer poor sleep patterns, compared to those with a low genetic risk and good sleep patterns.

The research team also found that:

  • Healthy sleep patterns reduced the risk of developing asthma by 44% in people with low genetic risk
  • Healthy sleep reduced the risk of asthma by 37% in those with high genetic risk.

They wrote: “These results showed that a healthy sleep pattern could significantly decrease asthma risk in any genetic subgroup.

“Unhealthy sleep patterns and sleep traits…were significantly associated with the risk of asthma in adults. The combination of poor sleep pattern and high susceptibility could lead to additive asthma risk.

“A healthier sleep pattern could be beneficial in asthma prevention regardless of genetic conditions.”

Dr Erika Kennington, the head of research and innovation at the charity Asthma and Lung UK, said: “This research suggests there is a link between asthma and not getting enough sleep, although it is too early to say that treating poor sleep could reduce someone’s risk of developing asthma.”

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