Cystic Fibrosis May Interfere With Children’s Sleep, Study Reports

James Frederick, PA-C, MMSc avatar

by James Frederick, PA-C, MMSc |

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Children with cystic fibrosis (CF) have less sleep and more sleep interruptions than healthy children, even when the disease is well-managed and stable, an Australian study indicates.

The research, “How Well Do Children with Cystic Fibrosis Sleep? An Actigraphic and Questionnaire-Based Study,” was published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Monash University researchers studied the sleep patterns of 87 children with CF 7 to 18 years old for 14 days. They compared the patterns with those of 55 healthy children. Only children with stable CF were included in the study.

The team used scoring systems to assess sleep quality and daytime sleepiness. They also recorded patients’ overnight capillary oxygen saturations, or amounts of oxygen in their blood, low levels of which can cause drowsiness.

Previous studies on sleep quality were based only on answers to questions in sleep-quality surveys. The Monash team also used an Actigraph. The wristwatch-like device detects sleepers’ movements to better gauge the quality and duration of their sleep.

Children with CF had significantly less sleep time and less sleep quality than healthy children, the team found. The reason was these children were frequently awakened during the night.

In addition, children with CF had higher sleep disturbance and sleep apnea scores than healthy children. And their peripheral capillary oxygen saturations were lower. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder.

“Even in periods of clinical [disease] stability, children with CF get less sleep than their peers due to more time in wakefulness during the night rather than less time spent in bed due to treatment regimes such as physiotherapy or nebulizer treatments,” the researchers wrote. “Objective measures of sleep disturbance and subjective daytime sleepiness were related to disease severity. In contrast, parents of children with CF report high levels of sleep disturbance unrelated to disease severity.”

Professor Rosemary Horne of Monash Children’s Hospital, the study’s lead author, said in a press release that less sleep may impact the mood, quality of life, and behavior of children with CF, plus their ability to manage their emotions.  This, in turn, could affect “the treatment and long-term outlook for these children.”

“Sleep is clearly something that needs to be considered when developing overall treatments for children with CF,” she concluded.