Nighttime Asthma Predicts Poor
Outcomes in Teens

Heidi Splete

May 06, 2021

Teens with persistent nocturnal asthma symptoms were significantly more likely than were those without nighttime asthma to report poor functional health independent of daytime asthma, based on data from 430 adolescents aged 12-16 years.

Approximately half of children with severe asthma experience at least one night of inadequate sleep per week, and lost sleep among young children with asthma has been associated with impaired physical function, school absence, and worsened mood. However, the effect of asthma-related sleep disruption on daily function in teenagers in particular has not been well studied, according to Anne Zhang of the University of Rochester (N.Y.) and colleagues.

In a poster presented at the virtual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies (#542), the researchers reviewed baseline survey data from the School-Based Asthma Care for Teens (SB-ACT) study, a randomized, controlled trial conducted from 2014 to 2018 in Rochester, N.Y.

The average age of the respondents was 13.4 years, 56% were male, 56% were African American, 32% were Hispanic, and 84% had Medicaid insurance.

Persistent nocturnal asthma was defined as 2 or more nights of nighttime awakening in the past 14 days, and intermittent nocturnal asthma was defined as less than 2 nights of nighttime awakening in the past 14 days.

Overall, teens with persistent nocturnal asthma were significantly more likely than were those with intermittent nocturnal asthma to report physical limitations during strenuous activity (58% vs. 41%), moderate activity (32% vs. 19%), and school gym classes (36% vs. 19%; P <.01 for all).

In addition to physical impact, teens with persistent nocturnal asthma were more likely than were those with intermittent nocturnal asthma to report depressive symptoms (41% vs. 23%), asthma-related school absences in the past 14 days (0.81 vs. 0.12), and poorer quality of life (4.6 vs. 5.9, P <.01 for all).

The results remained significant in a multivariate analysis that controlled for daytime asthma symptoms, weight status, race, ethnicity, gender, age, and smoke exposure, the researchers said.

The study findings were limited by several factors including the cross-sectional design, potential of recall bias in survey responses, and lack of data on sleep duration and quality, the researchers noted.

However, the results suggest that improving nighttime asthma control for teens may improve daily function, and providers should ask teens with asthma about the possible effect and burden of nighttime symptoms, they said. Potential strategies to improve persistent nocturnal asthma symptoms include adjusting the timing of medications or physical activity, they added.

"We know that getting adequate, high-quality sleep is important for health - especially for adolescents," said Kelly A. Curran, MD, of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, in an interview. "Just like adults, tired teens are not able to function at their best and are at higher risk of developing mood problems," she said.

However, "There are already so many barriers for teens getting good sleep, such as screen time/social media, homework, busy social calendars, caffeine use, and early morning school start times," she said. Underlying medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, and obstructive sleep apnea also can contribute to poor sleep for teens, she added.

"In my practice, I frequently counsel about sleep hygiene because it is so essential and not commonly followed," said Curran. "Nocturnal asthma is another contributor to poor sleep — not one that I have been regularly screening for — and something we can potentially intervene in to help improve health and quality of life," she emphasized.

Curran said that she was not surprised by the study findings, given what is known about the importance of sleep. In clinical practice, "Teens who have asthma should be screened for nocturnal symptoms as these are linked to worsened quality of life, including limitations in activities, depressive symptoms, and asthma-related school absence," she said.

However, additional research is needed to better understand whether improving nocturnal asthma symptoms can help improve quality of life and daily functioning in adolescents, she noted.

The SB-ACT was supported by the National Institutes of Health. Ms. Zhang was supported in part by the OME-CACHED for medical student research and an NIH grant. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose. Curran had no financial conflicts to disclose.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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