Poor sleep quality, but not sleep duration, was significantly associated with active atopic dermatitis in a longitudinal study of more than 13,000 children.

The itching associated with atopic dermatitis (AD) may interfere with children’s sleep, and sleep studies suggest that children with active disease are more restless at night, wrote Faustine D. Ramirez of the University of California, San Francisco, and her colleagues. Their report is in JAMA Pediatrics.

“Acute and chronic sleep disturbances have been associated with a wide range of cognitive, mood, and behavioral impairments and have been linked to poor educational performance,” the researchers noted.

To determine the impact of active AD on children’s sleep, the researchers reviewed data from 13,988 children followed for a median of 11 years. Of these, 4,938 children met the definition for AD between age 2 and 16 years.

Overall, children with active AD were approximately 50% more likely to experience poor sleep quality than were those without AD (adjusted odds ratio, 1.48). Sleep quality was even worse for children with severe active AD (aOR, 1.68), and active AD plus asthma or allergic rhinitis (aOR 2.15). Sleep quality was significantly worse in children reporting mild AD (aOR, 1.40) or inactive AD (aOR, 1.41), compared with children without AD. Nighttime sleep duration was similar throughout childhood for children with and without AD.

“In addition to increased nighttime awakenings and difficulty falling asleep, we found that children with active atopic dermatitis were more likely to report nightmares and early morning awakenings, which has not been previously studied,” Ms. Ramirez and her associates said.

Total sleep duration was statistically shorter overall for children with AD, compared with those without AD, but the difference was not clinically significant, they noted.

The participants were from a longitudinal study in the United Kingdom in which pregnant women were recruited between 1990 and 1992. For those with children alive at 1 year, their children were followed for approximately 16 years. Sleep quality was assessed at six time points with four standardized questionnaires between ages 2 and 10 years, and sleep duration was assessed at eight time points between ages 2 and 16 years with standardized questionnaires.

The study findings were limited by several factors, including some missing data and patient attrition, as well as possible misclassification bias because of the use of parent and patient self-reports, and a possible lack of generalizability to other populations, the researchers noted.

However, the results support the need for developing clinical outcome measures to address sleep quality in children with AD, they said. “Additional work should investigate interventions to improve sleep quality and examine the association between atopic dermatitis treatment and children’s sleep.”

The study was funded primarily by a grant from the National Eczema Association. Ms. Ramirez disclosed a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Two other investigators received grants, one from NIH and the other Wellcome Senior Clinical Fellowship in Science. One coauthor reported receiving multiple grants, as well as paid consulting for TARGETPharma, a company developing a prospective atopic dermatitis registry.

SOURCE: Ramirez FD al. JAMA Pediatr. 2019 Mar 4. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.0025.