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Poor sleep heightens risk of COPD flare ups

October 1, 2022

Research we’re watching

An image of a patient measures his own lung capacity.

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who sleep poorly are far likelier than those who sleep well to experience flare-ups of worsened breathing, a new study suggests. COPD, a progressive, incurable lung condition, affects more than 16 million adults in the United States. Many factors, ranging from air pollutants to viruses, can trigger flare-ups.

The study, published online June 6, 2022, by the journal Sleep, tracked 1,647 current and former smokers over three years. (The vast majority of COPD patients have smoked.) Participants described their sleep using seven measures, including duration, timing, and frequency of disturbances. Researchers combined each person’s responses into a score of sleep quality, which they compared to the person’s recorded number of COPD flare-ups. Compared with participants who had the best possible sleep scores, those with generally poor sleep showed a 25% higher chance of experiencing a COPD flare-up within the following year. For participants with the worst sleep scores, odds of a flare-up over the next year nearly doubled.

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About the Author

photo of Maureen Salamon

Maureen Salamon, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Maureen Salamon is executive editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch. She began her career as a newspaper reporter and later covered health and medicine for a wide variety of websites, magazines, and hospitals. Her work has … See Full Bio
View all posts by Maureen Salamon

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