Dr. Matthew Shorofsky and colleagues from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, examined sleep quality and COPD flare-ups over an 18 month follow-up period. At baseline, patients with COPD completed the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index. This questionnaire consists of 19 questions about sleep quality, how long it takes to fall asleep, sleep disturbances, use of medications to sleep, and daytime tiredness.
On-line surveys and phone interviews every 3 months were used to track flare-ups. The study results were published on-line on May 28, 2019, in the journal CHEST (doi: 10.1016/j.chest2019.04.132).
Results: A total of 480 patients with COPD were studied. 203 had poor sleep quality, and 185 had one or more flare-ups. Higher sleep quality scores (poor sleep) were associated with increased risk of a flare-up (exacerbation). The strongest association was for sleep disturbances and poor daytime function.
Conclusions: Poor sleep quality was associated with an increased risk of a COPD flare-up over 18 months of follow-up.
The most common symptom of not getting enough sleep is what you probably expect—feeling sleepy and drowsy. Some people describe it as a strong desire to fall asleep or a sense of feeling run down.
“If the brain is not getting the energy it needs from sleep it will often try to get it from food,” says Chris Winter, MD, of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Virginia. Running low on rest can increase the production of ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone, in your gut. Too much ghrelin makes your body crave fatty and sugary foods, Dr. Winter says. Poor sleep can also mess with leptin, the hormone that gives you a feeling that your stomach is full. “When you’re not sleeping properly, you tend to eat more of what you’re craving because you’re not feeling the signals to stop eating,” Dr. Winter says. This may contribute ot obesity.
If you are a poor sleeper, you should mention this to you health care professional. There are simple questionnaires to assess the problem. Monitoring your oxygen saturation during sleep at home may be useful to determine whether a low oxygen saturation is contributing to poor sleep. In some individuals, a formal sleep study in the hospital or clinic may help to diagnose your sleep problem and to find out if you may have obstructive sleep apnea.
Finally, it is important to avoid blue light from using computer monitors and smart phones at night. Blue light in the evening tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime, which inhibits the production of melatonin and reduces both the quantity and quality of your sleep.