Chronic breathlessness and sleep problems: A population-based survey

David C. Currow, Sungwon Chang, Diana Ferreira, Danny J. Eckert, David Gonzalez-Chica, Nigel Stocks, Magnus Per Ekström

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives This study aimed to explore the relationship (presence and severity) between chronic breathlessness and sleep problems, independently of diagnoses and health service contact by surveying a large, representative sample of the general population. Setting Analysis of the 2017 South Australian Health Omnibus Survey, an annual, cross-sectional, face-to-face, multistage, clustered area systematic sampling survey carried out in Spring 2017. Chronic breathlessness was self-reported using the ordinal modified Medical Research Council (mMRC; scores 0 (none) to 4 (housebound)) where breathlessness has been present for more than 3 of the previous 6 months. a € Sleep problems - ever' and a € sleep problem - current' were assessed dichotomously. Regression models were adjusted for age; sex and body mass index (BMI). Results 2900 responses were available (mean age 48.2 years (SD=18.6); 51% were female; mean BMI 27. 1 (SD=5.9)). Prevalence was: 2.7% (n=78) sleep problems - past; 6.8% (n=198) sleep problems - current and breathlessness (mMRC 1-4) was 8.8% (n=254). Respondents with sleep problemspast were more likely to be breathless, older with a higher BMI and sleep problems - present also included a higher likelihood of being female. After adjusting for age, sex and BMI, respondents with chronic breathlessness had 1.9 (95% CI=1.0 to 3.5) times the odds of sleep problems - past and sleep problems - current (adjusted OR=2.3; 95% CI=1.6 to 3.3). Conclusions There is a strong association between the two prevalent conditions. Future work will seek to understand if there is a causal relationship using validated sleep assessment tools and whether better managing one condition improves the other.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere046425
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • clinical audit
  • education & training (see medical education & training)
  • sleep medicine


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