Children With Cystic Fibrosis and Their Caregivers Face Sleep Difficulties

Jennie Smith, MDedge News

June 15, 2020

Children with cystic fibrosis have inadequate sleep even during times of normal lung function, according to results from a new study.

Children aged 6-12 years had more sleep issues compared with preschoolers or teenagers, researchers also found, and the quality of sleep among caregivers was seen strongly linked to that of their children with CF.

For research published in the Journal of Cystic Fibrosis, Kelly C. Byars, PsyD, and colleagues at Cincinnati Children's Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati surveyed parents of 91 medically stable patients with cystic fibrosis aged 18 and younger at a single CF treatment center between 2016 and 2017.

Fifty-four percent of the children in the study were female, the mean age was 9 years, and 90% of the caregivers were mothers. In addition to the sleep questionnaires, the researchers looked at the children's available lung function data from around the time of the survey. Forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) measures showed the vast majority had no obstructive lung disease (73% of the cohort) or only mild symptoms (18%) at the time their caregivers were surveyed.

Overall, some 40% of caregivers said they had concerns about their own sleep, while 29% said they were concerned for their children's sleep. Parents reported night waking, daytime sleepiness, and difficulty falling asleep as their main problems, and difficulty falling asleep as the top issue for their children, along with daytime sleepiness, night waking, and mouth breathing.

Sleep issues were most pronounced for children aged 6-12 and their caregivers, a group for which 44% of caregivers said they were concerned for their children's sleep and 55% for their own sleep. For this same group only 8% of parents reported their children having nocturnal cough, and just 5% reported gastrointestinal problems at night.

Overall, the caregivers in the study reported inadequate sleep, with more than half saying they got less than 7 hours per night. Similarly, more than half of the school-age and adolescent patients with CF were getting less than the nightly minimum recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The researchers noted "large effects for parent and child associations for insomnia symptoms that may be amenable to treatment," especially trouble returning to sleep and daytime sleepiness.

The study "is the first to examine parent reported sleep disturbances and sleep duration in both parents and their children with CF spanning a broad age range and including patients who were medically stable and predominantly free of lung dysfunction," Dr. Byars and colleagues wrote in their analysis, adding that sleep health should be integrated into care protocols for CF patients and their families, and families of children with other chronic illnesses.

In a comment on Dr. Byars and colleagues' study, Hovig Artinian, MD, a pediatric pulmonary and sleep medicine specialist at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., said the findings "highlight for all of us that we must regularly assess and address sleep disturbances in our children with CF specifically, but also in all children with chronic conditions."

Children with CF "carry a heavy burden," Dr. Artinian said, "balancing living their lives with daily interruptions to their typical day to complete multiple treatments. As a result, sleep can be impacted even when there are no other clinical or objective signs of illness, so that was not an entirely surprising finding." Difficulties with sleep onset and maintenance can be prevalent in the absence of changes in children's daytime behavior or any other psychological signs, Dr. Artinian said, noting that in his practice he routinely asks families whether children snore (something recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for all well-child checks) and whether they have any other concerns about their sleep.

"Even if the answer is 'no' the first time, the act of asking plants a seed in their minds to keep an eye open and to know they can discuss it with us at a future visit if concerns come up," Dr. Artinian said.

Dr. Byars and colleagues noted several limitations to their study including its cross-sectional, single-center design, potential participant selection bias, reliance on parent reports of child sleep, and use of a novel, nonvalidated survey instrument.

The researchers received funding from the Boomer Esiason Foundation for their study and disclosed no financial conflicts of interest. Dr. Artinian had no relevant disclosures.

SOURCE: Byars K et al. J Cyst Fibros. 2020 May. doi: 10.1016/j.jcf.2020.04.003.

This story originally appeared on MDedge.com.

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