Recent Blog Articles

Diseases & Conditions

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.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

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


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

You might also be interested in…

Improving Sleep: A guide to a good night's rest

When you wake up in the morning, are you refreshed and ready to go, or groggy and grumpy? For many people, the second scenario is all too common. Improving Sleep: A guide to a good night's rest describes the latest in sleep research, including information about the numerous health conditions and medications that can interfere with normal sleep, as well as prescription and over-the-counter medications used to treat sleep disorders. Most importantly, you’ll learn what you can do to get the sleep you need for optimal health, safety, and well-being.

Read More

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.