Most patients with COPD have multiple other problems, which are referred to in medical terms as comorbidities.  Some of the main comorbid conditions include cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up early and waking without feeling refreshed.  Insomnia is a common and important comorbid condition in patients with COPD.  The impact of insomnia in patients with COPD can be significant.  Increased frequency of exacerbations with worse clinical outcomes is associated with deterioration in the quality of life, including an increase in mortality.

The prevalence of insomnia in the COPD population has been quoted to be about 30%, but recent studies show that this number is much higher.  Many patients with COPD feel that their insomnia is just part of their lung disease and did not mention it to their physician or were not receiving appropriate treatment for the problem.  The economic burden of COPD in the US is immense, costing about 36 billion dollars in 2010.  Since insomnia is associated with increased costs and poorer outcomes, it makes sense to try and address this problem for our patients.

If you have COPD, insomnia can be related to lowered oxygen levels at night, but not all insomnia is related to your lung disease. Talking to your doctor about this symptom and getting help may lead to an improved quality of life and fewer exacerbations, along with reducing mortality.