The aim of this study was to investigate whether asthma is associated with decreased quality of sleep and increased daytime sleepiness. The study involved a random population of 2,202 subjects supplemented by 459 subjects with suspected asthma, aged 20-45 yrs. The subjects were from Reykjavik (Iceland), Uppsala and Göteborg (Sweden) and Antwerp (Belgium), and participated in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey. The investigation included a structured interview, methacholine challenge, skinprick tests and a questionnaire on sleep disturbances. Participants in Iceland and Sweden also estimated their sleep times and made peak expiratory flow (PEF) recordings during a period of 1 week. Asthma was defined as self-reported physician-diagnosed asthma with current asthma-related symptoms (n = 267). Difficulties inducing sleep (DIS) and early morning awakenings (EMA) were about twice as common, and daytime sleepiness 50% more common, in asthmatics compared with subjects without asthma. After adjusting for possible confounders, a positive association was found between asthma and: DIS (odds ratio (OR) = 1.8); EMA (OR = 2.0); daytime sleepiness (OR = 1.6); snoring (OR = 1.7); and self reported apnoeas (OR = 3.7). Allergic rhinitis, which was reported by 71% of subjects with asthma, was independently related to DIS (OR = 2.0) and daytime sleepiness (OR = 1.3). A significant correlation was found between the number of asthma-related symptoms and sleep disturbances (p < 0.001). Asthma is associated with decreased subjective quality of sleep and increased daytime sleepiness. Concurrent allergic rhinitis may be an important underlying cause of sleep impairment in asthmatic patients.