09/27/2012 08:02 am ET

COPD And Sleep: People With The Lung Disease Have More Problems Getting Shut-Eye, Study Suggests

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) doesn't just make it hard for people to breathe -- it could also negatively affect sleep, a new study suggests.

Researchers at St. Vincent's University Hospital in Ireland found that people with COPD are more likely to have poor quality of sleep than those without the lung condition.

Specifically, it takes longer for them to fall asleep and they spend less time actually sleeping while in bed, compared with people without the condition. They also spend less time in deep sleep (REM sleep) and more time in light sleep.

The new study, published in the journal Respirology, takes a second look at previously conducted research that included 106 people with moderate to severe COPD, who had an average age of 66 and all of whom were current or former smokers.

"Patients with COPD frequently report fatigue, sleepiness and impaired quality of life," study researcher Walter McNicholas, a professor in the Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at St. Vincent's University Hospital, said in a statement. "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."

The hallmark symptoms of COPD -- which includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or a combination of the two -- are fatigue, wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath, according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Currently, COPD is the No. 3 cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.



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