Is COPD Causing Your Sleepless Nights?

COPD and sleep quality linked

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Many people with COPD report not getting enough good sleep, which leads to daytime exhaustion and sleepiness. Now there is new research to support these claims.

A recently published study provides scientific evidence for the first time indicating that moderate and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are associated with poor sleep quality.

"Get help for poor sleep."

David G. McSharry, MD, a Clinical Fellow in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues led a study to determine sleep quality of patients with moderate to severe COPD.

Researchers analyzed two previous study trials in which 106 COPD patients were given long-acting bronchodilators. Bronchodilators are medications that make breathing easier to increase airflow to the lungs.

The patients were given the medications so researchers could measure their overnight oxygen saturation in several different sleep laboratories in Europe.

The participants had an average age of 66 years old, 67 percent were male and were either current or former smokers. All had at least ten years' history of smoking and moderate to severe COPD.

In order to measure sleep quality, researchers used several different metrics, including how long it took participants to fall asleep, how frequently their sleep was disturbed and the number of rapid eye movements (REM) they had. REM occurs during the deepest sleep stage.

The study found that people with COPD had lower quality sleep in most of these metrics when compared with those of the same age without COPD.

Patients’ daytime levels of oxygen of the blood in their arteries, called “hypoxaemia” when the levels are low, were also measured.

A relationship was found between the COPD patients’ daytime arterial blood oxygen levels and their sleep efficiency (how long they stayed in bed.)

"Patients with COPD frequently report fatigue, sleepiness and impaired quality of life," says co-author Walter McNicholas, a professor in the Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at St. Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.

"The study carried out by our group, which has been researching sleep and breathing for more than 25 years, showed that such patients experience poor sleep quality, which may contribute to these debilitating symptoms," he said.

This study was published online September 21 in the Respirology journal.

The two previously studies analyzed for this research were funded by grants from Boehringer Ingelheim Ireland Ltd and GlaxoSmithKline (Ireland) Ltd. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 5, 2012
Last Updated:
April 26, 2013