Sleeplessness affects school work of asthmatics

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Urban elementary school children with poorly controlled asthma are likely to experience sleep problems and suffer academically, new research indicates.

"In our sample of urban schoolchildren, aged seven to nine, we found that compromised lung function corresponded with both poor sleep efficiency and impaired academic performance," said study author Daphne Koinis-Mitchell, an associate professor of psychiatry and human behaviour at Brown University's Alpert Medical School in Providence, R.I.

Parents were asked to keep a health diary

The children's asthma symptoms were monitored over three-month periods, and the children and their parents were asked to keep a health diary as well.

Questionnaires were also completed to gauge the degree to which asthmatic symptoms were kept under control. Sleep quality was also monitored and quantified.

The result: Children with poorly controlled asthma fared worse at school, according to their teachers. "Carelessness" regarding school work was also linked to poorer sleep, as was difficulty in staying awake while in class.

"Urban and ethnic minority children are at an increased risk for high levels of asthma morbidity and frequent health care utilization due to asthma. Given the high level of asthma burden in these groups, and the effects that urban poverty can have on the home environments and the neighborhoods of urban families, it is important to identify modifiable targets for intervention," Koinis-Mitchell said in a news release from the thoracic society.

Efforts aimed at improving asthma control and sleep quality may help to boost academic performance in this vulnerable population, she added. "In addition, school-level interventions can involve identifying children with asthma who miss school often, appear sleepy and inattentive during class or who have difficulty with school work. Working collaboratively with the school system, as well as the child and family, may ultimately enhance the child's asthma control," she said.

Data and conclusions presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

For more on asthma and children, visit the American Lung Association.

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