Children with cystic fibrosis or asthma report sleep interruptions 1 or 2 nights a week caused by their symptoms, but nighttime use of technology may contribute more to sleep problems, according to a new study.

“Routinely addressing sleep concerns, sleep hygiene, and mental health is important in the care of pediatric patients with chronic illness,” concluded Lauren Greenawald, DO, and colleagues at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del. The researchers presented their findings on sleep quality and mental health of children with asthma or cystic fibrosis (CF) at the American Thoracic Society’s international conference.

Dr. Greenawald’s team screened 31 children (aged 7-17 years) with CF and 34 children with asthma for anxiety, depression, and ADHD. The researchers also assessed the children’s sleep hygiene, sleep quality, and physical and emotional symptoms. Instruments included the validated Pediatric Daytime Sleepiness Scale (PDSS), Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory, and Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Pediatric Anxiety Survey, plus an investigator-designed survey about sleep habits.

Just over half the children with CF (52%) and 14% of children with asthma had mental health diagnoses (P less than .01). The same proportion of patients with CF (52%) and nearly a third of patients with asthma (30%) reported they often or always felt they needed more sleep based on the PDSS. Further, 42% of children with CF and 55% of children with asthma said their symptoms kept them awake 1-2 nights a week. Only 6% of asthma patients and no CF patients said their symptoms keep them awake often, 3-4 nights a week. Just over a third of children with CF (36%) and 46% of those with asthma thought they would sleep better if they didn’t have a medical condition.

Yet, for the vast majority of children, the sleeping problems did not appear to result from worry about their illness: 85% of those with CF and nearly all of those with asthma (97%) did not have trouble sleeping as a result of anxiety about their medical condition.

The researchers identified nighttime use of technology that may affect the children’s sleep in ways similar to that of the general population. Many of the participants – 68% of those with CF and 47% of those with asthma – reported texting or using social media or other technology an hour before going to bed. In addition, 55% of those with CF and 25% of those with asthma said they use their phone after the lights are out at least 5 nights a week. One in five of those with CF (20%) said they go to bed later than they planned at least 5 days a week because of social media or texting, though only 6% of those with asthma said the same.

Despite the children’s reports of inadequate sleep, very few – 3.2% of children with CF and 5.9% of children with asthma – reported feeling low daytime energy.

The use of child self-reporting in the presence of family members is a study limitation, including potentially introducing social desirability bias.

The research was funded by the Nemours Summer Undergraduate Research Program. The authors reported no disclosures.

SOURCE: Greenawald L et al. ATS 2019, Abstract A2788.