Association between asthma and risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea

JAMA. 2015 Jan 13;313(2):156-64. doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.17822.


Importance: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is more common among patients with asthma; whether asthma is associated with the development of OSA is unknown.

Objective: To examine the prospective relationship of asthma with incident OSA.

Design, setting, and participants: Population-based prospective epidemiologic study (the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study) beginning in 1988. Adult participants were recruited from a random sample of Wisconsin state employees to attend overnight polysomnography studies at 4-year intervals. Asthma and covariate information were assessed during polysomnography studies through March 2013. Eligible participants were identified as free of OSA (apnea-hypopnea index [AHI] of <5 events/h and not treated) by 2 baseline polysomnography studies. There were 1105 4-year follow-up intervals provided by 547 participants (52% women; mean [SD] baseline age, 50 [8] years).

Exposures: Questionnaire-assessed presence and duration of self-reported physician-diagnosed asthma.

Main outcomes and measures: The associations of presence and duration of asthma with 4-year incidences of both OSA (AHI of ≥5 or positive airway pressure treatment) and OSA concomitant with habitual daytime sleepiness were estimated using repeated-measures Poisson regression, adjusting for confounders.

Results: Twenty-two of 81 participants (27% [95% CI, 17%-37%]) with asthma experienced incident OSA over their first observed 4-year follow-up interval compared with 75 of 466 participants (16% [95% CI, 13%-19%]) without asthma. Using all 4-year intervals, participants with asthma experienced 45 cases of incident OSA during 167 4-year intervals (27% [95% CI, 20%-34%]) and participants without asthma experienced 160 cases of incident OSA during 938 4-year intervals (17% [95% CI, 15%-19%]); the corresponding adjusted relative risk (RR) was 1.39 (95% CI, 1.06-1.82), controlling for sex, age, baseline and change in body mass index, and other factors. Asthma was also associated with new-onset OSA with habitual sleepiness (RR, 2.72 [95% CI, 1.26-5.89], P = .045). Asthma duration was related to both incident OSA (RR, 1.07 per 5-year increment in asthma duration [95% CI, 1.02-1.13], P = .01) and incident OSA with habitual sleepiness (RR, 1.18 [95% CI, 1.07-1.31], P = .02).

Conclusions and relevance: Asthma was associated with an increased risk of new-onset OSA. Studies investigating the mechanisms underlying this association and the value of periodic OSA evaluation in patients with asthma are warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysomnography
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Wisconsin / epidemiology